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Derek R.

The Big Freeze of 1963

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I remember riding bikes up and down the cut at braunston in the early eighties (staying clear of thin ice at bridges) good fun but plenty of bruises... if you fell off you slid for about 60 feet

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3 hours ago, Tam & Di said:

Our no.1 son was 6 months old. We'd been living with a friend on his Thames barge at Brentford and just bought a boat of our own moored on the GU at Cowley Peachey. Water everywhere was frozen solid other than a thin wedge between the boat and the bank, and horses had come across the frozen gravel pit and were leaning on our boat to get a drink.

Sadly this prolonged freeze was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of canal carriage - once freights had moved on to lorries they stayed there even after the thaw.

I recall discussing this with the late David Blagrove and he was adamant that no or virtually no narrow boat traffics of consequence were lost as a direct result of the freeze, and Nick Hill agreed.  Of course the new BW Board gave up most of its GU narrow boat operation in 1963 owing to increasing losses and the traffics transferred to Willow Wren. That must surely have been decided prior to the freeze - although no doubt BWB would have referred to the freeze as a timely justification.   BWB carried on with some GU traffics in any case, plus the southern narrow boat fleet in the north west for over a year until that transferred to Willow Wren in October 1964.   I don't know of any canal traffics that were lost from the broad waterways  because of the freeze.  Whitebirk Power Station (L&L) was one that ended in 1963 but Mike (Pluto) said that was because the coal quality from Burnely was poor and the allocation was switched to Yorkshire - not practicable by water given the tonnage and the number of boats and crews needed.   Of course the roads and railways were very badly hit as has been described - I think the majority of waterway freight customers would have understood the difficulties and considered it 'just one of those things'.  This would be an interesting topic to research.

Incidentally, one question that David Blagrove was unable to answer definitively was did BWB transfer the various contracts such as grain, coal, steel etc to Willow Wren, or did WW Sub-contract to BW at least for a while?

Best wishes

David L

 

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10 hours ago, fanshaft said:

I recall discussing this with the late David Blagrove and he was adamant that no or virtually no narrow boat traffics of consequence were lost as a direct result of the freeze, and Nick Hill agreed.  Of course the new BW Board gave up most of its GU narrow boat operation in 1963 owing to increasing losses and the traffics transferred to Willow Wren. That must surely have been decided prior to the freeze - although no doubt BWB would have referred to the freeze as a timely justification.   BWB carried on with some GU traffics in any case, plus the southern narrow boat fleet in the north west for over a year until that transferred to Willow Wren in October 1964.   I don't know of any canal traffics that were lost from the broad waterways  because of the freeze.  Whitebirk Power Station (L&L) was one that ended in 1963 but Mike (Pluto) said that was because the coal quality from Burnely was poor and the allocation was switched to Yorkshire - not practicable by water given the tonnage and the number of boats and crews needed.   Of course the roads and railways were very badly hit as has been described - I think the majority of waterway freight customers would have understood the difficulties and considered it 'just one of those things'.  This would be an interesting topic to research.

 

Incidentally, one question that David Blagrove was unable to answer definitively was did BWB transfer the various contracts such as grain, coal, steel etc to Willow Wren, or did WW Sub-contract to BW at least for a while?

Best wishes

David L

 

Some of the less regular /hit & miss & limited boatload contracts in the early/mid 60's were put out to tender I don't know how or when this changed as I obtained regular work with concrete piles from Mk Drayton

Edited by X Alan W

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11 hours ago, fanshaft said:

Whitebirk Power Station (L&L) was one that ended in 1963 but Mike (Pluto) said that was because the coal quality from Burnely was poor and the allocation was switched to Yorkshire - not practicable by water given the tonnage and the number of boats and crews needed.   David L

They did look at supplying coal from Wigan, but the poor condition of the gates on Johnson Hillock Locks would have required them to be replaced, and the traffic was not considered worth the expense. Yorkshire coal, brought by rail, was also replacing that from Wigan on the Liverpool gasworks traffic, which was another reason for the end of that traffic. Basically, on the L&LC traditional canalside industries, particularly collieries, were in decline, and the cold spell only brought forward the inevitable. Textile mill traffics had ceased earlier with the rapid decline in that industry after the First World War, and then again following the Second. 80% of Wigan's mills closed between the mid 1930s and the mid 1950s.

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my school hired in a bulldozer to clear the snow off the playing field during the easter holiday, creating huge snowbanks; there was still a remnant of snow left at the side of the cricket pitch when we broke up in July.

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T&S Elements put a lot of their remaining boatmen onto the gritting lorries that year, those that couldnt drive were in the back shovelling grit onto the road for 10-12 hours a day in the freezing cold. A lot of their business went to road and stayed there after the thaw.

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On 25/11/2017 at 10:12, Athy said:

I've just watched the whole programme, quite enthralled. I remember plenty of snow but not much actual disruption. I'd recently started at Ashby-de-la-Zouch Grammar School, Dad had started a new job at Coalville Grammar, and we were living in  flat at Bardon Hill House outside Coalville while our own new house was being built. So I had a 'bus journey of some six miles each way. 

   Luckily Bardon Hill House stands beside the A50 which I assume was snowploughed regularly. I don't remember missing any days of school, nor any power cuts (though from the data presented in the programme, we must have had a few). BHH belonged to a school governor who, being wealthy (he and his wife owned Everard's Brewery and part owned Ellis & Everard's quarries), had ample staff who kept the paths and driveways clear and the central heating stoked up.

   We have been lucky indeed with winters recently. This spring we had stocks of coal and logs remaining, as we had had to light the stove in the lounge less frequently than hitherto.

 

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We have snow forecast for today & tomorrow (Salop), low single figure temps, turning wetter later this week - and a return of gales.

Overall Global average temperatures have not changed much in the past 2,000yrs strange as it may seem, varying 0.6°C either side of a baseline.

Interesting timeline of Winter weather from the 1600's here:

https://www.netweather.tv/weather-forecasts/uk/winter/winter-history

  • Greenie 1

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That winter of 1962/1963 was a watershed moment for canal carrying and for coal traffic from Cannock Chase of particular relevance. Yet this was also the time when the NCB started to close some of the canal served mines or waterway links

 

East Cannock colliery closed May 1957

Mid Cannock had lost the rail connection to the Cannock Extension Canal by 1960

The last part of Cannock Chase collieries- the washery closed February 1962

Wimblebury colliery the last to send coal to Hednesford basin closed 1962

Grove washery closed in June 1963

Hilton Main Wharf on Wyrley & Essington closed June 1965 

 

What remained of the coal traffic went out by rail such that from Cannock Wood Colliery

 

560054.jpg

  • Greenie 1

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I was 7 at the time, in SE London, and remember plodding up the road to school in my wellies though snow that I think was 6" to a foot deep, then the school milk (we got 1/3 pint each mid-morning, this was well before Mrs Thatcher abolished it a decade or so later) being placed in its crates in front of the classroom radiator to defrost, and ending up mostly warmed up but with a big icy lump in the middle of the bottle. The flavour was not so good as usual I think.

It could've been worse, there must have been enough food about because my parents were able to feed us much as per usual I think. We had a coal fire downstairs keeping the house mostly warm, and a shed out the back (built by my mother's father about 1947, maintained by my father by 1962-3, and later in the 1980s and 90s by me) which I think held about a ton and a half when the delivery came each summer, enough to see us through a bad winter. So our coal would have got down south to us before the freeze up began. Life was OK.

We had TV but I can't remember seeing much about the weather, not sure why. Maybe I wasn't yet watching news much at that age.

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3 hours ago, Peter X said:

I was 7 at the time, in SE London, and remember plodding up the road to school in my wellies though snow that I think was 6" to a foot deep, then the school milk (we got 1/3 pint each mid-morning, this was well before Mrs Thatcher abolished it a decade or so later) being placed in its crates in front of the classroom radiator to defrost, and ending up mostly warmed up but with a big icy lump in the middle of the bottle. The flavour was not so good as usual I think.

It could've been worse, there must have been enough food about because my parents were able to feed us much as per usual I think. We had a coal fire downstairs keeping the house mostly warm, and a shed out the back (built by my mother's father about 1947, maintained by my father by 1962-3, and later in the 1980s and 90s by me) which I think held about a ton and a half when the delivery came each summer, enough to see us through a bad winter. So our coal would have got down south to us before the freeze up began. Life was OK.

We had TV but I can't remember seeing much about the weather, not sure why. Maybe I wasn't yet watching news much at that age.

Similar age to me I was 8 and we all walked  to school and it never closed. Pot bellied stove in the classroom. Today the same school closes if a snowflake lands within 20 miles. 

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2 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Similar age to me I was 8 and we all walked  to school and it never closed. Pot bellied stove in the classroom. Today the same school closes if a snowflake lands within 20 miles. 

I am a bit older and spent the holiday/weekends slithering around on Filby Broad and no the school didnt close

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8 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

Similar age to me I was 8 and we all walked  to school and it never closed. Pot bellied stove in the classroom. Today the same school closes if a snowflake lands within 20 miles. 

You went home after school? And had proper weekends? I had to live in a castle with 3 working radiators and no fires. During the winter in question we had no water for weeks and had to stand out in the snow to clean our teeth (and got a flogging if we didn’t). The ice on the outdoor swimming pool was broken and the water used in the kitchen - but we all survived (just) although we did stink a bit!!

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21 minutes ago, roland elsdon said:

‘I had to live in a castle’

luxury.

we used to live in a paper bag on the new north road in uddersfield.😊

At least you had fresh milk handy.........

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2 minutes ago, roland elsdon said:

I was a milk monitor at birkby county junior school.

The milk used to force out of the top of the bottles when it froze and the foil lid stand on top innitt. 

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