The Midlands may have been in the grip of snow and ice last month, but it was nothing compared to the Big Freeze of 1963. To mark the 50th anniversary, we have been trawling through the archives and uncovered some astonishing cinefilm footage from the time.
The snow arrived on Boxing Day 1962, and in many places, hung around until early March. Blizzards from the east led to drifting several feet deep. January 1963 was the coldest month in the 20th century, with temperatures plummeting to -19 degrees Celsius. The average maximum temperature for the month was -0.33 degrees. It was so cold that rivers turned to ice and even the sea began to freeze over.
Geoff Francis, from Stourport-on-Severn, was a 14 year old boy at the time. He and his family were living on a farm on the Witley Court estate in Worcestershire. They caught the moment on 8mm cinefilm, including footage of Geoff's father driving an old army Jeep over a frozen lake called the Washing Pool. Geoff recalls, "We used to wake up in the morning with dew on the bed. They were very long days and we were very tired and very wet and soggy, but it was great – absolutely fantastic."
The weather played havoc with the sporting calendar; Horse racing and rugby were badly hit, as was football with numerous postponements. The Third Round of the 1962-63 FA Cup took 66 days to complete. One fixture between Lincoln City and Coventry City was postponed a record 14 times. Lincoln supporter, Chris Ashton, who was nine at the time, went down to the Sincil Bank ground after school to help the groundstaff clear the snow and ice. "They had to get pnuematic drills out because it was that thick it wouldn't move, " he remembers. "Lincoln only played two games in that entire spell."The Big Freeze finally came to an end in early March when temperature rose quickly, leading to the Big Thaw and severe flooding in places like Worcester. It had been the harshest winter for 200 years.