Remembering The Big Freeze - Winter 1962/3 Where Were You When It Happened?

Written by Jan Rosser in Memories on 07 Dec 2019 | Views: 520

Remembering The Big Freeze - Winter 1962/3 Where Were You When It Happened?

It has been a tad chilly these last few days and nights after our mostly mild November.

It had me thinking back to the worst winter I can vaguely remember in 1962/3. I was born in 1955 so can see people queuing at stand pipes for water as the pipes in the houses were frozen.

There are no photos that I can reproduce on here as they are copyrighted, but I have a couple of videos for you to look back on and also some links to some photos and a bigger description of the winter. The lead photograph is a free download of a more recent winter in Vancouver.

This link takes you to the ten worst winters to date in Britain. You have to go back as far as 1684 for the very worst of all! Wikipedia gives an insight into the weeks and months once the freeze took hold.  The Google Big Freeze page has many photos to look at. I am sure some more memories will come flooding back and maybe you could comment at the end of the article? I wish I could remember more. I do know that it was very cold!


I asked on Facebook for members to comment on their own memories and I would like to share them with you below.

Yvonne Morgan: Not born ...

Margaret Dent: Have no photos but was living in Bournemouth at the time the house was frozen up no water the toilets would not flush it lasted six weeks it showed on snow we had to move to a central heated flat sheet joy to get into a bit bath even the sea froze .so many homes froze up because a lot if houses had outside pipes and they were not used to such severe weather in Bournemouth.

Georgia Hill: Mum has a b/w photo of me, aged 2 and my older brother standing on the front step. I'm clearly shaking with cold and there's a pile of snow as high as my head next to me. The family home had an incredibly steep drive so I assume we were housebound.

Mary Goddard: I was 16 and a Post Office telephonist in Horley. The main problem at work was when the thaw started and the underground cables were flooded. Not many phones were working for a while.

My friend and I used to go to Crawley to meet our boyfriends. I remember the two of us standing at the bus stop wearing slingback shoes in deep snow! My mother told me that I should get some boots, but my response was 'Boots are for old people!'. A couple of years later boots were fashionable.

Paul Burton: No pictures but living in Chingford Essex. My best friend's dad went off to work in thick freezing fog on his motorcycle and sidecar. Never returned!! They found his body slumped over the motorcycle the next morning. Died of a heart attack!

Frances Light: Oh no Paul, who was That?

Paul Burton: Colin Smith's dad along Beech hall road. He was only in his forties!

Carolyn Soutar: At school. I was 9, in Hammersmith. We were sent home early. Big news.

Pat Wilson: Erm, Khartoum?! Had a pretty freezing winter 1963 in Baghdad.

Brenda Briggs: I was 15, living in Croydon Surrey. I remember having to walk to work.

Erica Pugh: At High School in Southport overlooking Royal Birkhall Golf course. Wouldn't let us play out in the snow!!

Margaret Dent: Hot bath

Derek Coles: The snow was higher than the dining room window in South Wales where I was living at the time. Had to walk to Ebbw Vale steelworks over the mountain into the next valley. Work for eight hours then walk home. Hard times.

Tricia Palin Neville: I was 13 and living in Harrow, living above a shop that we had moved into a fortnight ago. The businesses regularly kept the pavements clear and the Council cleared the roads. The result was an ever increasing wall of snow (higher than me) between road and pavement with a few gaps left for crossing. Dad lost the dog through one of these gaps when he saw a cat in the road. A car went over him, but he ran off, leaving a bloodstain in the road. Dad spent the evening tramping through the snow calling the dog but came back frozen and unsuccessful. After a couple of days, after we had all given up hope, Dad was in the kitchen when he heard whimpering. He opened the door and the dog shot indoors. He was very cold and hungry, but his wound was slight and only needed to be powdered with some stuff from the vet. We were baffled how he found his way back. In our fortnight in our new flat, we had never climbed the steep iron steps at the back as they were icy and treacherous, and yet the dog had found his way up there to the back door.

Jacqui Edwards: In my mother's tummy ;) x

Janette Christine Davies: Just left school and started first job, but I did go every day. Got the 8 0'clock bus and arrived about quarter to ten!!

Sheila Khan: Don't remember much. I was 16 and all I can remember is a lot of snow.

Rosemary Ann Smith: I was home for Christmas in Exmouth, and couldn't get back to Bristol where I worked, as the railway lines were piled with snow! Remember it well.

Patricia Humm: Just married and living in London it was awful. Not only did we have snow and frozen pipes we had fractured gas mains and pea soup fogs.

Brenda Smith: Not long started work and got told off for wearing trousers! I explained it was freezing in the basement as we had no heater and the supervisor asked if I would like one of hers as she had two and I said yes please and walked off with It! When I got down to my office my immediate boss told me off for being cheeky and taking the heater. He said the supervisor was being sarcastic when she asked the question! I nearly got sacked over it but never wore trousers again!! πŸ™„πŸ€£πŸ€£

Kathleen Ferguson: Slipping and sliding all over the place β˜ƒοΈπŸŒ¨οΈβ„οΈπŸ€£

Ros Rendle: Slithering my way between Farnborough and Aldershot to get to High School.

Kathleen Kay Bevan: Yes frozen up no water πŸ™€πŸ™€πŸ™€

Lyn Wild:I was only 2yrs, so don't really recall it. β›„

Fiona Moore: On my way to Rio de Janeiro by ship I was 3 but can remember my parents getting updates from the UK from the radio operator.

Su Bristow: I was six, very small and skinny. I couldn't stay out in the cold very long. My father had made a wooden sledge, and I sat by the window watching other children playing with it πŸ€¨

Michele Spurge: I was 6 ..β˜ƒοΈβ„οΈβ›„πŸ›·

Patricia Humm: London I got marrie  in the middle of it, snow on my wedding photo.

Denise Everson: Janice, we went sledging on trays, down the grass slope in Shakespear Rd, if you remember? X

Janice Rosser: YES I DO! Great times.

Liz Ringrose: I was nine. Trudging to school each day I couldn't remember what the world looked like without snow. Weekends were a on a loop: Go out and play in the snow - come in to have gloves dried on the fire guard - hot drink - go out and play in the snow ...

Thorne Moore: At school, snow banked up to the roof and turned into a slide.

Phil Thomas: In my pram, I was born in 1962, What a Marvellous Year !

Elizabeth Gill: At home. Couldn’t get to school for a fortnight. Absolute bliss.

Philip Probert : Third year 6th; A-levels done; waiting to go to Cambridge. Bored to death. Endless cups of coffee in the prefects room. Helping the caretaker put salt in the playground. More cups of coffee. Have hated coffee ever since!

Kit Domino… At school. You kept your coat and gloves on and had snowball fights with the teachers and made ice slides. They never shut for snow back then. It was fun being a kid. Nor did we have central heating at home or tumble driers, yet we survived.

Margaret Blake: Yes, I had a long walk to work once I left the bus, then praying that bus would not be full and pass generally was.

Nicki Aitch: Unborn πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I wasnt born until 72🀭

Anne Harvey: I was working in the US at that time so missed it. Phew!

Lizzie Lamb: I do. We'd moved down from Scotland that summer and were looking forward to 'mild English winters' compared to what we were used to. Ha. Nearly moved back up north to where it was warmer after the winter we experienced!!

Cheryl Phillip: I remember not being able to get to school. And that was in London!! No central heating then either πŸŒ¨οΈβ„️⛄Also going to the loo was a challenge, open the back door, then gingerly look up to make sure you wouldn't get a whole load of snow fall on top of you from the roof as you ventured out. Happy days. Xx

Dot Menzies Holden: Mum had spent years buying up old Army greatcoats at rummage sales and she had laid them across the loft floor and strapped them round the water tank. We were the only house who had running water and no burst pipes during that Winter. Mum used to send us to the neighbours to get their kettles and teapots and flasks and hot water bottles and then back with them filled up with hot water. We also took hot soup to some of the older neighbours and cleared their paths so they could get to the gate at least. All the children in our road ran messages for those stuck in the house and we only missed one day of school (the Caretaker arrived at school to find the boiler wasn't working, but he had it up and running by that evening and we were back at school the following day). Only the main road were kept clear but that meant the buses were running so people still had to get to work.

Janet Buitendijk: I was 22 at the time and was in a production of an amateur dramatic society in Stokesley on the north York moors. Had to bus to rehearsals and performances thru drifts and snow clearing piled up higher than the single decker bus. Took forever to get there and back. Oh yes, I remember it

Ian Mckean: Wasn’t even a twinkle in my dads eye then!

Margaret James: I was freezing to death on my way to school wearing regulation Clarks shoes and regulation nylon stockings in American Tan because we weren't allowed to wear wellingtons or thick tights whatever the weather. My gosh, how I hated school!

Julie Collings: I was freezing to death on my way to school wearing regulation Clarks shoes and regulation nylon stockings in American Tan because we weren't allowed to wear wellingtons or thick tights whatever the weather. My gosh, how I hated school!

Jo Carroll: We lived up a steep hill - I remember going shopping for my mother one day and dropping a cabbage at the top of the hill and it slid all the way down to the bottom. Nothing for it but to slide after it ...
And our school, frustrates by never being able to make us play netball or hockey, took us ice skating on the ponds on Wimbledon Common.

Judith Barrow:  We lived in Saddleworth on the Pennines. Completely blocked in until local farmers dug tunnels through the lanes around us. For a long time it the only way we got to school and to the village. I remember it felt really weird walking underneath feet of snow: dark but glistening. Of course, as kids, we thought it wonderful. Sledging paradise on the hills. Thanks for this, Janice, great article.

So as I type this, the forecast is for stormy conditions and threat of snow. Will the big freeze of 1962/3 be repeated?

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