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Wrong type of snow: Tunnels to front door of a house covered by snow in the Peak District, Derbyshire in 1947
The Great Freeze of 1963 was the coldest winter in the UK for over 200 years. However, the winter of 1947, while not as cold, was one of the snowiest.

The UK Met Office describe what the conditions were like.

Thousands of people were cut off for days by snowdrifts up to seven metres deep during the winter of 1947, which saw exceptional snowfall. Supplies had to be flown in by helicopter to many villages, and the armed forces were called in to help clear roads and railways.

Between January and March that year, snow fell every day somewhere in the country for 55 days straight. Much of this settled because temperatures stayed very low, just above freezing most days.

No-one expected this winter to be severe, as January started with very mild temperatures at up to 14 °C recorded. This was soon to change, however. An area of high pressure moved over southern Scandinavia, setting up a weather pattern which dominated the UK for the rest of the month. The first snow came on 23 January, falling heavily over southern England. Blizzard conditions occurred across the south-west of England, leaving many villages in Devon isolated.


The cold, snowy weather continued through February and into March. Any breaks in the cold weather were short-lived.

February 1947 was the coldest February on record in many places. Woburn in Bedfordshire registered a low of of -21 °C early on 25 February.

If February hadn't been bad enough, March was even worse. In the first half of the month, there were strong gales and heavy snowstorms, making for blizzard conditions. On 4 and 5 March, heavy snow fell over most of England and Wales, with severe snow drifts forming. On 6 March, drifts were five metres deep in the Pennines and three metres deep in the Chilterns.

On 10 and 11 March Scotland had its heaviest snowfall of the winter, with snow drifts up to seven metres deep reported by 12 March. The snowstorm heading over Scotland was to be the last over the UK for this cold spell, however. As it moved away, temperatures were already rising in the very south west of the UK. Temperatures rapidly got up to about 10 °C, and the leftover snow began to thaw rapidly. This created a serious problem. The ground was still frozen solid due to the weeks of cold weather, leaving the melting snow with nowhere to go.

As the warmer weather moved across the UK, the melt-water poured into rivers and caused many to burst their banks. Flooding problems began to spread across England from the south west, as a new depression came in from the Atlantic, bringing rain and severe gales. During the afternoon of 16 March, winds over southern England averaged about 50 knots, with gusts of 80-90 knots. This caused damage to buildings and caused even more problems as the strong winds created waves which pounded and even broke some flood defences.

River levels continued to rise. The banks of the Trent burst at Nottingham on 18 March and hundreds of homes were flooded, many to first floor level. While floods in the south-west England began to subside, other rivers continued to rise in eastern England. The Wharfe, Derwent, Aire and Ouse all burst their banks and flooded a huge area of southern Yorkshire. The town of Selby was almost completely under water. Only the ancient abbey and a few streets around the market place escaped inundation. Seventy per cent of all houses in the town were flooded. The flooding issues continued into the spring, bringing a nasty end to the cold and snowy winter.


For the future Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, growing up in Penge, South London, the atrocious weather meant that his bricklayer father was laid off work and no money came in.

'There wasn't enough food to go round, so he'd hit a couple of us, send us to bed without any dinner,' one of Bill's brothers recalled. '"Get to bed, don't argue!"

Then you'd get hit, kicked up the stairs - vroom, that was it. And in the house we lived in, you didn't want to go to bed. It was freezing, really nasty, with ice on the inside of the windows.'


Pictures, though, tell the story best of all.
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Hardy cyclist David Joel cycling on a frozen Thames near Windsor Bridge in London during the 1947 cold snap
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Winter test: A bus abandoned in a snow drift on the Poole-Dorchester road near Bryantspuddle in January 1947
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Cold diggers: Men clearing snow on the Gravesend-Meopham road in Kent
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Snowdrifts at Farley
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The aftermath – floods in York
The finest minds of climate science tell us that snow is caused by global warming. It really must have been scorching back in 1947!