Lancaster nostalgia: Harsh winters in Wray and district

Severe winters in Wray: Footballers on ice. J Armfield and A Waiters of Blackpool FC skate cross their frozen pitch at Bloomfield Road. January 8 1963.
Severe winters in Wray: Footballers on ice. J Armfield and A Waiters of Blackpool FC skate cross their frozen pitch at Bloomfield Road. January 8 1963.
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Following on from earlier this month, historian David Kenyon researches the severe winters which hit Wray village and nearby. This week he looks at the comparison between the 1940s and 60s.

The only similar winter to 1962-63 in the past 20 years was the winter of 1946-47.

Severe winters in Wray: A railway worker keeps a fire burning next to a diesel engine in an attempt to prevent the fuel from freezing. Photo Graham Finlayson.

Severe winters in Wray: A railway worker keeps a fire burning next to a diesel engine in an attempt to prevent the fuel from freezing. Photo Graham Finlayson.

Here are some comparisons:

* In 1946-47, the first snowfall was on November 15 – in 1962-63, the first snowfall was November 17.

* In 1947, the last snowfall was on March 10 – in 1963 it was February 23.

* The lowest recorded temperature in 1947 was -21.1 degrees Fahrenheit – in 1963 it was -22.6 degrees. This was recorded at Braemar on January 18.

Severe Winters in Wray: This photograph in The Farmers Weekly shows a hill farmers flock of sheep being fed hay during the severe winter of 1962-63.

Severe Winters in Wray: This photograph in The Farmers Weekly shows a hill farmers flock of sheep being fed hay during the severe winter of 1962-63.

By any standard, the winter of 1962-63 was one of the hardest Great Britain has ever had.

It was probably the coldest since 1829-30.

It was a winter in which cars were driven across the Thames.

Most lakes in the Lake District were frozen over, as were many of the Lune Valley rivers and canals.

Severe winters in Wray: This photograph shows a heavy fall of snow blocking the lane to Bell Hurst Farm, Roeburndale East, during the very severe winter of 1963.

Severe winters in Wray: This photograph shows a heavy fall of snow blocking the lane to Bell Hurst Farm, Roeburndale East, during the very severe winter of 1963.

I remember a visit to Lake Windermere in 1963 when we walked across the frozen lake.

We probably needed the reassurance of the many skaters already on the lake to give us the courage to venture across.

Compared to 1946-47, it seems that the farmers of the Lancaster district fared much better in 1962-63 when far fewer sheep were lost.

Local farmers had better stocks of hay and silage available in 1962-63.

The main problem was a lack of water owing to frozen pipes. Many homes were without water for weeks.

The frost froze pipes as far down as two feet.

The Ibbetsons at High Salter Farm in Roeburndale bought back into use the old washhouse pump.

This provided enough water for the house but not for drinking. This pump had not been used for more than 20 years.

The January unemployment figures were much worse than anyone had expected.

Frost and snow had forced a halt to most outdoor building and road work.

At this time I worked for TP Foxcroft, the local joiner and builder, who had a workshop in Wray.

He found that we had a lack of work owing to the frosts.

We seemed to do every maintenance job around the house and buildings it was possible to do. Looking back I think Mr Foxcroft did very well to keep us all in work.

January 18 was the coldest night of the winter.

There was chaos on the railways when diesel fuel, coal, points and water troughs froze.

There were many problems with diesel lorries and buses freezing.

Fires were lit in the streets of many towns to prevent water freezing in the standpipes.

The newspapers reported that factories making disposable nappies were working overtime after supplies sold out.

It was said that millions had been sold because the icy weather had prevented mothers from drying conventional flannelette nappies.

Other businesses to suffer during this terrible winter were garden centres and
plant nurseries.

Thousands of plants in pots were killed by the severe frosts.

By the middle of February there was more heavy snow.

Roads were again blocked across the Pennines, over Shap, in mid-Wales, North Yorkshire and Scotland.

The road over Stainmore was again blocked after a snow plough had given up trying to clear the snow.

It was reported that an AA patrol man leaned on his shovel and struck the roof of a car buried beneath his feet.

The long winter of 1962-63 played havoc with most sporting events.

Large numbers of football matches had to be cancelled.

March 5 to 6 was the first night free of frost everywhere in Great Britain since December 1962.

Temperatures rose sharply throughout the country.

This, together with heavy rain, caused flooding across many parts of the country, but much less than in the winter of 1946-47.