St Swithin’s Day falls on July 15 and followers of the folklore believe the weather will determine whether the UK will expect a summer of downpours or a heatwave. The legend claims an angry medieval saint will determine the weather.
The forecasting legend is said to have begun when an Anglo-Saxon bishop of Winchester’s grace was disturbed.
The bishop, who is believed to be named Swithin or Swithun, was allegedly the tutor to a young King Alfred the Great.
He is said to have requested to buried outside Winchester Cathedral so his grave could be exposed to the elements as well as footsteps of worshippers.
But by the tenth century, priests moved the bishop’s tomb and a terrible storm soon followed and the legend was born.
Heatwave on the way despite cold St Swithin’s Day
Weather to turn hot despite St Swithin’s Day
The proverb goes: “St Swithin’s Day if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain, St Swithin’s Day if thou be fair, for forty days will rain na mair.”
For many, today has been largely cloudy with some outbreaks of rain meaning, if legend is true, summer is officially over.
Meteorologist Alex Burkill said: “There will be a rain that could be a bit heavy at times, particularly across parts of Scotland and then Western areas of the UK – so north-west England, Wales and south-west England.
“So cloudy outbreaks of rain that will be heavier towards the north, and further east the clouds could be thick enough for a few spots of rain but mostly dry.”
St Swithin’s Day dates back to the tenth century
However, Mr Burkill provided a ray of sunshine in his prediction when asked whether the UK will experience 40 days of rain.
He said: “I think in the history of anything that has never happened, and that’s not going to happen this time, fortunately.”
Thankfully, despite the gloomy picture remaining until Thursday, the end of the week could see warmer temperatures and sunny skies especially in the south.
Mr Burkill added: “It’s a drier and brighter picture as we go int the start of August – it does look like we’re going to see more prolonged dry spells than really we’ve had this month.
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“So quite a different story from what many of us can expect on quite a cloudy and damp St Swithin’s Day.”
BBC Weather’s Matt Taylor mentioned the archaic legend, which has previously never been reliable, in his report.
He said: “If legend stands true, if it rains today with you it’s going to for the next 40 days but if it stays dry it will do for the rest of summer.
“The good news for us is the legend doesn’t seem to be true, the most we’ve ever seen in modern day records is 34 days of rain.
St Swithin’s Day was cloudy and rainy
“You certainly don’t want that to be the case today as for some of you it is going to be a bit of a cloudy and damp day.
“If you’ve got some cloud and damp weather today, there will be some sunshine in the forecast for the days ahead.
“The weather front is bringing in lots of cloud and it’s where we’ve got rain and drizzle at the moment.
“It’s edging its way eastwards and so it’s going to turn cloudier in eastern parts.
St Swithin’s legend predicts weather for 40 days
“For most, it is going to be rather cloudy. Overall, it’s going to be a day dominated by grey skies and temperatures will be down accordingly.
“Overnight, most places will be dry and temperatures sticking in the teens as we head into Thursday morning.
“There will be more brightness on Thursday with breaks in cloud which will lift those temperatures.”