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Weathervanes can be a quirky and characterful addition to any property. Whether you want to fit a rooster wind vane to a domed cupola or Mary Poppins to a roof apex, we have included some handy information below to help you make a decision on the right style for you.

We've also added some interesting facts about the history of weathervanes so you can impress your friends and family with your wind vane knowledge.

What is the purpose of a weathervane?

The dictionary definition of a weathervane is a “revolving pointer to show the direction of the wind, typically mounted on top of a building”.

Most commonly topped with the silhouette of a cockerel or rooster they are also known as a wind vane, weathercock, wind gauge or anemometer. Weathervanes are mainly used for decorative purposes, fitted to the highest point of a building, adding intriguing and unusual design to the architecture.

They can be fitted to a flat or angled surface, as well as to domed cupolas or on stands in your garden, and are adaptable to different locations using various brackets.

What does 'weathervane' mean?

The history of the word vane in weathervane can be traced back to the Old English word fane, translating to flag.

As weathervanes change direction with the wind, it is thought that the use of the word vane stuck as the metal arms of modern weathervanes gradually replaced the simple cloth flags and pennants used to show archers the direction of the wind in the medieval period.

When were wind vanes invented and who invented them?

The humble weathervane has had an interesting and colourful history, branching back to ancient Greece. The earliest known example of a weathervane depicted the god Triton, son of the sea god Poseidon. Built by the astronomer Andronicus, it was fitted to the Tower of the Winds at the ancient Greek Agora in Athens in 48 B.C.

Other versions of weathervanes can be found littered throughout history. You would find ornate solid bronze vanes fitted to the prows of Viking longships in the 9th Century. From the 9th Century onwards a weathercock was fitted to the top of every church steeple in Christendom by order of Pope Nicholas I. The rooster or cockerel being a well-known symbol of Christianity.

It was the Victorians with their interest in all things classical, and their use of materials such as black wrought iron, that gave us the wind vane in the form we recognise it today. 

How to read a weathercock

The head of a weathervane, traditionally in the shape of a cockerel or rooster, is designed so that one side is heavier than the other.

On the classic rooster style vane, the head section is weightier than the tail, resulting in the tail being carried away from the direction of the wind. Simply look at which way the rooster is facing and you’ll know where the prevailing wind is coming from! A northerly wind comes from the north and blows towards the south.

The direction your vane faces can even give you some idea of what the weather will be like. A southerly wind often indicates a warm front is to follow. Whereas an easterly wind caused by a drop in pressure could indicate stormy weather ahead. 

How to build a wind vane

All our vanes come with fitting instructions and are easily assembled. Please see this link for more details. 

What is the correct placement on a building and what size wind vane do I need?

Our wind vanes come in two sizes – standard and large. The bracket supplied is adaptable and can be fitted either horizontally or vertically, depending on your needs.

Which size is best for your property depends on a few factors, as well as the overall look you are aiming for. If your property features a cupola, or domed peak at the summit of a roof, the deep black of the iron will be silhouetted against the open sky and stand out. This may mean you can consider the smaller size, as the vane is easily seen when fitted.

If you are mounting to a roof apex or side of a building, barn or shed it is more likely that the vane may be lost in the background, particularly with dark brick of foliage behind it. A larger size or hand painted weathervane may be a better option in this scenario. You may also want to consider a copper vane as these are bright and reflective, but will oxidise and darken in finish over time for a vintage or antique look.  

If affixing to a ridged roof you will need to purchase a V bracket.

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