Tales of dismay and disruption

By Andy Grant

Disruption and dismay

“THE WEEKEND SIBERIA CAME SOUTH – and bought, death disruption and dismay” emblazoned the headlines of the ‘Brighton and Hove Herald’. The article went on, “Three people died, public transport was paralysed, thousands of cars were abandoned, hundreds of people were unable to reach their homes....  There were long waits for London- Brighton travellers too. After a six hour journey one man got tired of waiting and jumped from a stationary train near Westdene – and ended up in hospital with a broken ankle”. Could this be referring to the recent spate of winter weather we have been experiencing?

History repeats itself

No! This was the headline of 15th December 1967, when a blizzard hit Brighton and temperatures plummeted to -7 C. Reports contained details of falls of snow between 30cm and 45cm in depth, with drifts of up to 2 metres.  Rottingdean and Saltdean were isolated for over 36 hours, whilst 200 stranded bus passengers sought refuge in the ‘White Horse’ Hotel. When food starting running out, an urgent appeal was made to the Police, but it was not until that evening that snow ploughs eventually made it through. Unfortunately the road was not unblocked until the following day.

100 years earlier

Almost exactly one hundred years prior to this, on December 14th 1867, the Mayor of Brighton had called a meeting at the Town Hall to consider a report from the General Relief Committee. This advocated that relief should be given to the poor by way of soup distribution, or otherwise, during the present winter, the inclemency of which has commenced unusually early.

Your winter tales?

If you have recollections, or better still, photographs of the winters of 1963 and 1967, why not share them with other readers on this page.

Photo:John G Davies of Ovingdean photographed in 1967 at Ovingdean Gap on the coast road

John G Davies of Ovingdean photographed in 1967 at Ovingdean Gap on the coast road

From the private collection of John G Davies

This page was added on 03/01/2011.
Comments about this page

I remember that snow and having to walk home from school in just a blazer, it was the most snow I've ever seen in Brighton in one quick fall. It melted away quite quickly though, not like the 1963 snow which seemed to hang around for months. At 10.30 am on that day there was a light covering, in two hours it was about eight inches and Brighton was at a standstill, I always thought the snow was on Friday 8th of December though.

By Michael Brittain (04/01/2011)

Hi Michael, your memory is not playing tricks on you - the snow did start around mid-day on Friday 8th December 1967. You will note the item refers to the headlines of the ‘Brighton and Hove Herald’ of 15th December. As this was published weekly on a Friday, it could not have carried the story any sooner than in that edition. Regards, Andy.

By Andy Grant (05/01/2011)

I was at Westlain Grammar School (which later became Falmer High School) on 8th December 1967. We had art that morning and I distinctly remember the snow starting around mid-morning. We became increasingly distracted as the snowfall became heavier, anticipating snowball fights at lunch time. At around 1pm the decision was made to evacuate the school and we were taken in groups to the junction of Coldean Lane and Lewes Road where I believe buses were waiting. I lived in Coldean so made my way home quite easily but I recall some of my classmates spent hours getting home.

By John Wilkin (07/01/2011)

Check out topics/ weather/ snow. Lots more info over the years of snowfalls in Brighton.

By Maralyn Eden (09/01/2011)

I too was a student attending Westlain Grammar School and from my time there (1965-69 inclusive) I do clearly remember one particular winter with a relatively sudden cold snap and a very heavy snowfall. I think buses were organized but for reasons I don't entirely remember I had to walk most, if not all, of the way home and yes, it did take me a very long time.

By Paul Burt (22/07/2011)

I have very vivid memories of trying to get home from Brighton and Hove Grammar School to Woodingdean in a raging blizzard and I guess this must have been 8th December 1967. (Thank goodness it was a school day. If it had been the previous Saturday we might have missed Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd at The Dome). By the time the school made the decision to let everybody go home it was far too late as public transport was already grinding to a halt. I somehow managed to get to the town centre then I hitched a lift along the coast road. As can be seen from the photo, traffic completely ground to a halt at Ovingdean Gap so I walked up over the downs to Cowley Drive through very deep snow drifts. As was the norm in those days, I didn’t have a jumper or coat- just the school jacket and, of course, the school scarf. By the time I got home I looked more like a snowman and had to stand in the bath while I thawed out. I was 16 at the time so it was all a bit of an adventure but I often wonder what happened to younger pupils. I do remember that next time it snowed they sent us home almost immediately and we just got the bus.

By Chris Dawson (20/10/2011)

Friday 8th December 1967-Birmingham-snow havoc. I remember it came in the early hours of Friday morning, and waking up to see all that snow, it was a clear sunny morning and a hard frost under clear skies. My age then was 20. It was my last day on the GPO as a trainee telephone engineer, since August 1966. I had to hand the tools in to the GPO headquarters in the city centre-Newhall St. It took about two hours on the bus to get there from Castle Bromwich- seven miles away, as the traffic hardly moved due to crashes/abandoned cars.

By Mike (07/12/2012)

I don't remember the snow at this time as I was away in the military but I do remember the snow when I was four years old in 1947. It was bitter. I can remember sitting around the blue mottled cooker in the kitchen and trying to keep warm. I went to the road behind the gasworks (Boundary Road) with my dad to collect pieces of coal or coke that had fallen from the overloaded lorries that plied their way to and from the gasworks. The snow seemed to hang around until March, frozen and dirty. Brrr.

By Mick Peirson (09/12/2012)

I had a paper round for a while during the bad winter of 1963. My round was near the Preston Park area- I remember delivering to the large houses opposite the park. I had my wellies on and the snow came up past them. One old gentleman invited me in for a cup of tea, I was so cold I accepted. It was against my better judgement but, I thought I could handle him anyway. He was fine and I enjoyed my tea, he said he would take his hat off to me for coming out to deliver papers on a day like that. I had some really good Christmas tips that year.Funny how these memories stay with you after 50 years. My dad was a postman so we were a pretty hardy pair.

By Anne Newman (09/12/2012)

Yes, I remember the speed with which the snow covered Brighton in 1967. Within two hours, everything was at a standstill. I walked from Varndean Girls to Hollingbury - not much of a distance, but the snow was so thick and blinding that I almost fainted when I eventually got home. I also remember the winter of 1963. My mother was pregnant and had arranged a home birth. I recall her waiting stoically for our GP to arrive. How he made it to the icy wilds of Hollingbury I'll never know, but my brother was safely delivered on the 3rd February.

By Janet Beal (10/12/2012)

That day I had to walk home. I worked in North Road and lived in Clarendon Villas in Hove. I walked along Western Rd, then up Montpelier Rd where a double decker bus had slit into the gutter. I and the bus passengers tried to push it back into the centre of the road. No joy, so they too had to walk home.

By Viv Webb (12/12/2012)

1947 was the worst winter I can remember.  I was eleven years old, and walked on the frozen sea off Brighton, quite a long way out from the beach.  Food was rationed, fuel was in short supply, we had no central heating or double glazing of course, and for thin people like me those two months were a real trial.

By Bill Colbourne (02/03/2018)

Even though I was barely 4 years old I remember the winter of 1947. We lived in Bennett Road. I can remember walking with my dad along the road to the gasworks which was called Boundary Road if I recall, picking up pieces of coke that had spilled off of the top of the delivery lorries. It was as Bill described a really bitter winter. I also remember us huddling around the blue mottled gas stove in the kitchen to keep warm. There was a copper boiler in the kitchen but we probably didn't have anything to use as fuel. In those days after the war it was a bit austere. There was a fire in one room of the house, frost on the inside of the windows was just normal to us. There was just one cold water tap and an outside loo in which the cistern froze if it and the pipes were not well lagged with old bits of whatever could be used. No loft insulation at all so between my bed and the roof was just the ceiling. On my bed I had my uncle Basil's old army greatcoat which was heavy and warm. My dad got hold of some war surplus aluminium containers which held about 2 pints of water. At bedtime the kettle would be boiled and the bottles filled with hot water and put in a football sock so we wouldn't burn our feet on the hot metal. To this day I always appreciate the small luxuries in life and never waste anything especially food. To me small luxuries are hot and cold running water, a shower whenever you want, central heating, chickens in the back garden and fresh eggs everyday and all the rest of it. In the winter as a kid it never seemed warm unless you were in bed with your head under the covers. Glad I went through all that, it has made me a rounder person altogether, (and a warmer one).

By Mick Peirson (03/03/2018)

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