The Cold Winter of 1962 and 1963
As the colder weather starts to descend on us, the thought turns to putting the central heating on – something that we are fortunate to have in this day and age! Water that is heated in a boiler and then pumped around the house through a copper pipe network helps to ensure that our homes are warm and cosy even if it resembles Siberia outside!
Central heating has only become commonly used in homes in the UK fairly recently though, with most homes not being heated this way until the 1970s and 1980s – before then a coal fire was the main heat source in the home. Therefore, when the winter of 1962 and 1963 hit, people really felt cold…
The big freeze as it has now been dubbed, started on Boxing Day in 1962. As most people were off work, it allowed them to enjoy the festive snowfall and as the blizzards brought huge drifts of snow, much of the country had a great time, especially the children, building snowmen and sledging. However, in late December, another blizzard arrived, mainly affecting the southwest of England, and creating huge snow drifts in some places.
In rural areas in particular, this was now starting to cause problems – farmers were struggling to get to their animals and as roads were covered in snow, deliveries could not be made to the farms or the villages surrounding them either. Dartmoor was hit particularly hard, with many people becoming trapped in their cars near Whiddon down and a group of trainee soldiers were stuck in the snow whilst on an army exercise.
The only way to feed the animals in this area was to drop the food into the fields from helicopters – and life in the towns and cities wasn’t much better. With farms and transport affected, basic supplies like milk and potatoes were not able to get through to people and concerns about shortages affected everyone.
The thing that made this particularly difficult was the amount of time that these conditions stayed around for – the snow that had fallen on boxing day was still around in March, and it wasn’t until around the 6th March where a welcome warm south-westerly wind finally allowed Britain to thaw out.