Big Freeze of 1963

You might have thought that this past winter has been chilly - with a fair bit of snow - but it hardly compared to the winter people experienced 50 years ago. Read your memories of the big freeze of 1962/1963 here.

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Thought this winter was cold? Remember the big freeze of 1963?

The winter months have finally passed and spring is around the corner.

You might have thought that this past winter has been chilly - with a fair bit of snow - but it hardly compared to the winter people experienced 50 years ago.

The winter of 1962/63 was the coldest of the last century - snow arrived on Boxing Day and stayed until March.

The average temperature for the whole three months from December to February stayed below freezing for the whole time and dipped as low as -18 degrees.

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"The storm was relentless. We struggled on regardless"

Alan Bland, from West Woodburn in Northumberland, wrote to us to tell us about life working and living on a farm during the big freeze - and during the thaw that followed.

"During the storm of 1962/63, I was 12-years-old living on a farm in Redesdale.

"I was off school for six weeks as all the roads were blocked.

"The storm was relentless. We struggled on regardless to take fodder to our sheep stranded on the hills.

"It became a common site to see a pack of a dozen or more foxes hunting for food as our farm bordered Redesdale Forest.

"When the thaw came huge chunks of ice littered the fields as the river Rede overflowed - taking the bark off the trees all the way to Redesmouth where it entered the Tyne."

– Alan Bland
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Photographs of the big freeze in 1962/1963

John Kirtley, from Newbottle in Houghton-Le-Spring, sent in these photographs of his family digging turnips out of the frozen ground to feed the cows at Over The Hill Farm in Houghton-Le-Spring in 1963.

The big freeze of 1963 Credit: John Kirtley
Digging out turnips from the frozen ground Credit: John Kirtley
Turnips dug out of the frozen ground to feed cows on the family's farm Credit: John Kirtley
The family carried on regardless of the snow Credit: John Kirtley
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Engineer got into his family's bad books during the freeze

Fred Ovington wrote to tell us how he had managed to escape the big freeze of 1963 and how had made himself unpopular with his family who were stuck in the snow.

"I was in my family’s bad books that winter, why? Because I sent postcards home from Hawaii.

"I was in the Merchant Navy at the time as an Engineer on an oil tanker with Shell.

"It was a terrible winter, sitting on Waikiki Beach, thinking of home.

– Fred Ovington


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"Neighbours all mucked in and helped each other out"

Jake Patterson sent in his memories of going to school during the big freeze of 1963 and about the community spirit at the time.

"I was eight-years-old in 1963.

"I can well remember being unable to see cars from the pavement as the snow was shovelled so high on the verges, you could only hear the chains on the wheels as they passed.

"I attended the Burgh school in Gala (with outside toilets), and the cream on our frozen school milk rising an inch over the bottle.

"The school as far as I can remember was never closed - all the kids at school loved being out in the playground up to our knees in snow everyday."

– Jake Patterson

"The kids from further afield were usually sent home early everyday as the buses could often not reach their destination.

"Our coal for the fire was always delivered, the shops were always open and neighbours all mucked in and helped each other out.

Heavy snow was always a great danger when it slid off the roofs of tall buildings, but you could hear it start to slide so you knew to stay close to the walls or get into a doorway."

– Jake Patterson
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"I can remember walking across Lake Windermere when it was completely frozen over"

Mike Carruthers from Kendal wrote to ITV about his memories of living in Windermere during the big freeze.

"I can remember walking across Lake Windermere when it was completely frozen over.

"I was aged seven and lived in Windermere, and I can also remember seeing a car drive across from Bowness Bay to Ferry Nab.

"You could see seagulls and ducks with their feet frozen in the ice after landing the night before and getting stuck as the surface froze again.

"This left dead birds six feet or more below the surface."

– Mike Carruthers
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1963: The last time the River Humber froze over

Ian Burrett wrote to us and sent in these pictures of the winter of 1962/1963 - the last time that the River Humber completely froze over.

The frozen River Humber Credit: Ian Burrett

"I'm not sure how often the Humber freezes but it certainly hasn’t done it since 1963.

Amazing when you consider it is tidal and therefore salt water.

Light ships were trapped in the ice for months.

We could have walked the two miles to Lincolnshire."

Ian built an igloo in the snow during the big freeze Credit: Ian Burrett
Children gather to sledge on the heavy snow during the winter Credit: Ian Burrett
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Car remained under wraps in North Yorkshire as snow continued to fall

Sylvia Crookes from North Yorkshire remembers buying a car at the start of the big freeze and then having to keep it in storage, redundant, until the roads thawed out.

We bought our first car on New Year's Eve 1962 and drove it home as the first flakes fell.

"We put it in the brand new garage and there it stayed till Easter.

"We used to sit in it and turn the engine on, and kept a Tilley lamp under it to keep it from freezing."

– Sylvia Crookes
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