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The Big Freeze

Published on January 17th, 2023

Had enough of Winter? - it could be worse... In February 1955 Britain experienced a "Big Freeze", with deep snow covering much of Britain, leaving many parts of the country cut off from essential supplies. Not forgetting the Winter of 1963 when the country started to freeze solid, with temperatures as low as −20 °C; it was so cold even part of the sea in Kent froze!

Today we showcase some wintry scenes from the archive, and share some of your personal memories of life on frosty days of the past.

So stay snuggly inside and take a few moments to enjoy these heartwarming memories.

Photo: Charfield, Snow Scene 1899.

"I went to Lovewell Road School and in 1963 we had the harshest winter for years. No heating at the school but no getting sent home then! Our teacher (Miss Cook I think) took us for a 'lovely walk' along the seafront from The Royal Hotel to Pakefield Church. That day was bitterly cold but amazingly sunny and bright with a flawless blue sky. The sea was frozen in parts at the shore and we saw an enormous Conger Eel frozen in death by the sand. We got to Pakefield Church where we were allowed to do brass rubbings. I could barely hold the wax, it was so cold!"

Memory: Big Freeze

Photo: Betchworth, Village And Church c.1939.

"I was born in Newnham Road Binstead in 1955 and have happy memories of the freedom of living there. However the most distinct memory was waking up on Boxing day 1962 and seeing the snow. The lanes were completely blocked. Wearing short trousers in the freezing cold to school (Mr Shaw would not allow 'long ones') with a coke stove to heat the classroom. There was still snow on the ground on my birthday in February, it never seemed to go!"

Memory: Binstead In The Big Freeze 1962 63

Photo: Charfield, Snow Scene 1900.

"We never had central heating in Winter. I remember when it was cold or snowing when I woke in a morning, I had to melt Jack Frost on the inside of the bedroom window. I would make a little hole in the frost to see to my delight a lot of snow had arrived overnight and it was still snowing very hard. If it was a school day my dad used to get a shovel and dig a path to school about 500 yards away, no saying we cannot go to school."

Memory: My Very Cold Mornings

Photo: Loughton, Winter In Epping Forest c.1960.

"When the pool froze over and we would become great ice skaters or ballerinas. We would go sledging on anything we could find on those banks, they seemed like snow covered mountains. We would climb and slide down so quickly. We loved every inch of the banks and the winter snow; wearing socks on our hands we never did feel the cold."

Memory: My 1st Home

Photo: Coldwaltham, Cottage And Church Of St Giles In Winter c.1955.

"1946 was a very bad winter, we were snowed in for weeks. The winters were very hard and my parents told me that when they were young they could remember the River Exe frozen solid and market stalls set up on them. Getting out of bed with the frost patterning all the windows and the linoleum on the floor freezing cold was a nightmare. If I got half a chance I would go to bed with my vest and liberty bodice on to avoid some of the cold in the morning. People don't know that they have been born these days, with their central heating and fitted carpets, and they still moan that they are cold in the occasional cold snap!"

Memory: Snow Snow And More Snow Winter 1946

Photo: Reigate, The Tunnel In Snow 1890.

"It was cold and our breath froze on our faces. We each had bread with something on it to eat and we broke off icicles to suck the freezing water. Then we made slides. Proper long slides. None of your playground rubbish with a queue to get on. Just career down and then run back to the top. Sometimes, career down sitting on a very wet bottom as your feet went from under you. The best fun ever. Sitting around all afternoon in wet clothing was a very small price to pay for a perfect hour of fun."

Memory: Winter Sport

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