I remember, I remember the great British freeze of 1962 – 1963 – we built a proper igloo from home-made frozen blocks and it remained in the garden for nearly six months; then I was ill and couldn’t go to school, so stayed at home for a week or two until we had to set off intrepidly sometime at the end of January.
We’d had to clear our long drive first, about 30 metres, and then head out to my school at Oxford (45 miles away). What had been amazing at home, was quite extraordinary once out and about. The roads and skyline had completely changed – the hedges had vanished under the white of drifting snow ... snow ploughs were out shovelling vast swathes of thick white stuff off the roads.
A new wave of very cold weather, with temperatures dropping to as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), affects much of Europe. NASA Satellite Image of Great Britain and Europe dated 7 January 2010.
At home we’d had enormous icicles hanging down – but none like these in Teesdale - and I remember the outside playroom full of fairy lights in the bright white light of a snowy landscape. I was then ill at the end of term – this is not a norm (.. this a very healthy bod here!) – and I was lying, isolated – oh yes! .. nasty little virusy thing they didn’t want me contaminating the world – I was one of 9 people in Oxford, who had similar symptoms: I’m none the wiser now, except for the scarring.
Going back to the weather of 1963 and the aftermath – lying in my sick bed, sick of the newspaper, sick of reading, sick of playing clock patience, sick of cards .. et al!!! .. but bemused by the meltdown.. The snow melted during March and slowly gravitationally made its way to the rivers – the River Thames valley was flooded as far as the eye could see, as shown in the newspaper – these pictures did interest me.
The next year we knocked down part of the old house, probably a cottage, added on over the years, and it may well have been a small dairy farm – remember even though we were only 25 miles from Oxford Street in London, in those days we were in the country ... suburbia and “Greater, greater London” had not pushed its tentacles out beyond our house in Surrey, as it has now. In the rafters as the demolishment took place, the builders found a piece of wood which had burnt into it “1848 is very cold”!
A walker admires a giant wall of icicles in Teesdale – icicles cling from the overhanging shrubbery and stretch around 15 feet to the floor into the freezing water below. Courtesy of North News & Pictures Ltd – Daily Mail.co.uk
As we were starting to come along in the late 1940s and early 1950s family and friends came to visit – out house was not warm! Though to be fair I don’t think anyone had really warm houses. We were born in January or February – rather cold months in England – as they’re proving now. My father’s elder brother often remarked to me over the years .. that visiting me as a new born was pretty awful – I might have been a joy to behold, but even I couldn’t warm up his freezing heart .. he couldn’t wait to get home!
So as we’re now living under the same sort of conditions – the house is warmer: thank goodness! – but like then everything is grinding to a halt – though a great many of us are suffering similar fates as I hear and see similar thoughts being gently posted around the blogosphere. There are differences that have occurred through the ages.
Over a 30 year period, Gordon Manley (1902 – 1980), an English climatologist, assembled the Central England Temperature series of monthly mean temperatures stretching back to 1659. This was no mean feat and is considered a notable example of scientific scholarship and perseverance, which has proved to be extremely valuable to meteorologists and climate scientists from the time it was published in 1953.
Big freeze cars 1963... Then Siberian winds delivered inches and inches of the stuff! c/o BBC London - Big Freeze 1963 Gallery
At times of extremes the public tend to get a little excited by figures representing events we have experienced, or events we feel we can understand a little better through the representation of numbers, and most often are grateful we were not present.
Manley recorded the winter months of 1683 – 1684 as an extremely harsh winter with an average temperature of -1.17C, the 1962 – 3 winter was the third coldest, with an average of -0.33C. The Little Ice Age had three minima periods beginning about 1650, 1770 and 1850 as often depicted by the painters of the day.
On 10 January 1982 Braemar, a Scottish village, recorded the lowest temperature in the UK of -27.2 degrees Centigrade, while two days ago the lesser temperature of – 22.3C at Altnaharra is on a similar temperature to Antarctica, and last week temperatures in parts of England and Scotland been lower than Norway and Finland – I’m glad I live in the south!
Winter skating on the main canal of Pompenburg, Rotterdam (Holland) in 1825, shortly before the minimum, by Bartholomeus Johannes van Hove
The Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy RN (1805 – 1865) achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin’s famous voyage, as a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate weather forecasting a reality. He was an able surveyor and hydrographer – bringing all of his talents to bear when, in 1854, he was appointed “Meteorological Statist to the Board of Trade”, which department was the forerunner of the modern Meteorological Office, and was set up as a service to mariners.
Since then times have changed – The Times Newspaper published the first daily weather forecasts in 1860; forecasts were broadcast by BBC Radio in 1922; Forecasters advised General Eisenhower of a 36-hour ‘weather window’ for the D-Day landings. "Probably the only day during the month of June on which the operations could have been launched," President Truman later declared;
Then of course there’s the net to check things now: and I do remember on 11 September 1981 in Johannesburg (at the start of Spring) that suddenly while we were all work we had four inches (10 cms) of snow! An unseen sight and everyone was amazed – I worked for a large organisation in our own head office with a large car park and it was full of South Africans with paper cups full of the white stuff – touching, tasting, dancing around and having snow ball fights!
What amazing sights of white stuff do you remember, were you involved in ..?
Guess where the rooves are? Eastbourne - from my attic bedroom window - the four spires: far left is the Catholic Church; Town Hall with clock at 10.00 a.m. on 7 January 2010; and the two flags fly high(ish) over the central police station.
Dear Mr Postman – I went up to my mother today and was able to show her some of the pictures of a snowy Eastbourne and chat about the 1963 winter. We haven’t had a huge amount of snow down in the town and today we’ve had a bit of a thaw – though another snowstorm is due .. we wait and see!
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