Snow?! You call this snow??

10Jan10

Had a bit of snow lately, and everyone complains about the country grinding to a halt, government or council not being prepared etc. Well there’s the English for you. Nothing better than a bit of weather and a bit of complaining.

(Though I say this as someone who has yet to slip over on an ungritted pavement and end up in A&E with a broken arse.)

Before there was global warming, there was climate change anyway. Winters in England really were colder back in olden times. Climate scientists will tell you that from the 1500s to the 1800s there was a “Little Ice Age”.

That’s why every so often they could hold “frost fairs” on rivers which had frozen over. The most noted, documented and painted examples were on the Thames in London.

It’s also one of the reasons why we have a folk memory of Christmas being traditionally a time when it snowed.

Just by way of example, some snapshots of winters in/around 19th century Bristol:

The month of January, 1830, was remarkable for a protracted snowstorm, which blocked up the roads in all parts of the country, communication between many towns being almost wholly suspended for several days. A local newspaper, in recording the incidents of the season, stated that on the 25th January a party of nineteen labourers dragged into the city a wagon containing upwards of two tons of flour, which they had succeeded in hauling from Melksham, a distance of twenty-five miles. They had been promised by a baker, and received, 28s, 4d. (being 1s, 8d. per sack) for performing this arduous task. (John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the 19th Century.)

An unusually intense frost, accompanied by a great fall of snow, commenced on the 13th January, 1881, and the low temperature continued for about a fortnight. During the snowstorm, a fast train, which left Bristol for London at half-past five in the evening, did not reach its destination until seven o’clock on the following evening, having been snowed up near Didcot. The chairman of the Great Western Railway Company, at the half-yearly meeting held soon afterwards, stated that 111 miles of their lines had been drifted up, and that 64 of their trains were buried in the drifts, exclusive of 141 temporary blocks sustained by others. The clearing away of the snow added many thousand pounds to the working expenses of the company. Postal communication in some parts of the country was suspended for three days. (John Latimer, The Annals of Bristol in the 19th Century.)

Extraordinary havoc was committed at Keynsham amongst the telegraph wires and poles along the railway by the storm which visited this place on Sunday evening … Every pole surrounding the station and signal box was by the weight of the snow which became attached and frozen to the large number of wires which each pole has to bear, combined with the force of the wind, either brought down, or snapped completely off.  (Bristol Mercury, Dec 28 1886.)

The storm was at its height between the hours of five and seven o’clock when, driven by a high wind, it was almost blinding to the few people who were abroad … The snow attained an average depth all over the city of not less than ten inches and in parts where it had drifted the depth was from three to six feet …

Those young people expecting valentines must have been kept in suspense, as the emissaries of the Post-office were very late in their deliveries …

In many instances the snow forced an entrance through window sashes and under doors and formed miniature drifts inside houses. As on previous occasions, there were many people who shovelled the snow from roofs and parapets with a delightful disregard for the unfortunate travellers passing underneath, and in one case the Mayor narrowly escaped being covered, if not knocked down, by a large quantity of snow shovelled from the roof of a four-storeyed house in Park Row. (Bristol Mercury, February 15 1888.)

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One Response to “Snow?! You call this snow??”


  1. 1 Bristol’s Big Freeze: The word on the blogosphere « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

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