Weather Through the Centuries


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On 13th January 1205 ”Began a frost which continued till the two and twentieth day of March, so that the ground could not be tilled; whereof it came to pass that, in summer following, a quarter of wheat was sold for a mark of silver”, according to Stowe’s Chronicles. It is thought that this great and fatal frost gave rise to the medieval belief that January 13th, St. Hilary’s Day, is the coldest of the year.

1372 3rd September: The River Churnet is the river running through Leek.  All the bridges over the Churnet were  totally destroyed by a flood.
1614/15 Alstonfield Parish Register: January 20 1614 “The great snow began to fall, and so continued increasing the most dayes until the 12 of march ”


 Hot summer with drought similar to that of 1612


 Frost fair held on the Thames


 Dry and hot summer


Severe winter Thames froze over


Severe drought, rainless for months 


Tornadoes were reported in the South West


Late January snowfall lasted 8 days


Very wet and the summer was described as "worse than some of the past winters" 


Thames froze over


Beginning a period of long lying snow, lasting from December through until March


3rd September A wild stormy night, roofs & chimneys were blown down. Noted as the night Oliver Cromwell died.


 3 of 5 winters in this period were described as cold with severe frosts. Skating was launched on the Thames for the pleasure of King Charles 11


6th February Reputedly the coldest day ever in England with a severe frost lasting about 2 months.


In November a deep depression was recorded, possibly the lowest recorded in London of 931 millibars. Still stands today?

Mar.10th. Ann, w. of Thos. Hill, who was smothered in a snowy day on Calton Moor was buried - Alstonefield Register


Thames covered in ice


A cold year compared with the preceding milder ones. Thames froze over again.


March snowfall lasted for 13 days, described as ' The thirteen drifty days' . Most sheep perished.


June exceptionally hot


Thames froze again becoming a regular occurrence


Kirch's Comet referred to in Alstonefield Parish Registers: A very strange and fiery Meteor in form like a sword appeared North-west by West in December 1680 and continued about 6 weeks, after which ensued a tedious and long Drought which began Aprill the 10th, 1681, and continued till June the 20th of the same year, which (as the wisest thought) procured many pestilentious diseases, as agues, strong ffeavours, smallpox, cum multis aliis, of which many died in ye countrey, chiefly in great cities and towns corporate.


Really Bad. Mid December saw the 'great frost' start in the UK and Central Europe. The Thames was frozen all the way up to London Bridge by early January 1684. The frost was claimed to be the longest on record. Thames frozen for 2 months as deep as 11 inches. Near Manchester, the ground had frozen to 27 inches and in Somerset to 4 feet! This winter was the coldest in the CET* (see footnote) series, at -1.2! (1739-40 was -0.4) Described by R.D. Blackmore in 'Lorna Doone'. In mid February there was a thaw.


Long and severe frosts, Thames froze over


6 out of 10 of these winters described as severe. 1694-95 heralded deep snow with falls of continual snow affecting London. Lasted 5 weeks, Thames froze, heavy snow and frost continued for a long while.  1695 is believed to  have been one of the coldest years ever recorded, the severe snowy winter ended  mid April by then arctic sea ice had extended around the entire coast of Iceland. 1695-6 saw -23c (?) in the UK, severe winter. The autumn of 1697 was very cold with snow persisting and ice forming. The winter of 1697-8 was severe with a CET of about 1c. Snow and ice built up. Ice on coasts built up to 8 inches in parts. Spring very cold. Generally the late 1600s were very cold and people were badly affected. The cold probably brought famine to the poor as livestock perished and crops failed. The 'Little Ice Age' lived up to its name. The final few years were not as bad but harvests were still ruined as wet weather took over from the cold.


December 1703: a 'great storm' in England thought to be the worst in the record books.


Severe winter, frost lasted for over 3 months. Temperatures plummeted to -18c. Thames froze in London. Severe winter by CET values (1.2c).


Thames frozen for 2 months, frost fair took place. Ice on Thames in London lifted around 15 feet by a flood tide but remained intact! The ice must have been astonishingly strong.


Severe winter.


Severe winter, frost and snow remained for at least a month. Very cool spring.


Very dry after a 'great frost' at start of the year. Very cold first period of the year with much snow and ice. London recorded -18c. A warm summer. Very dry with a minimum of -18 recorded in London  followed by a warm summer 


October, Easterly wind set in heralding frosts. The beginning of another 'Big One'.


Severe winter, one of the worst. May have been worse than that of 1715 (?). Late December saw a severely strong Easterly gale set up, brining very cold air over the UK. Ice formed on the Thames once again. Streets were blocked up with ice and snow which made travelling hazardous. The Thames remained frozen over for about 8 weeks (?). Some reports said this winter was the most severe on record with temperatures falling to -24c in early January). The Easterly gale persisted with snow and frost becoming an increasing hazard to all. Northerlies also started up, very strong in places, with again snow and ice. This winter can be noted as one of the most severe of all time since records began.


Coldest October on record with ice already formed in parts. 1740 was very cold as a whole, the spring was also cold.


Ice in the Thames, very cold again


Severe frost in November in London and the South.


Severe frost in November again in the South and London.


Snow fell early on (late October) in London and the South.


Intense frost and strong Easterlies prevailed from Christmas day right through January in London and the South.


Severe winter, cold persisted from early on (November) until February.


Early 1767 and 1768 started with frosts comparable to 1739-40.


Snow came late (May)


January saw severe frost and deep snow.


Late snowfall (May) in South.


Severe winter. From early January to early February much of the UK and Europe was very cold. The Thames froze. Stormy February.


Severe winter. Coldest winter in the series.


Two successive severe winters. The Thames froze completely in both, almost continuous frost lasted from early to late winter. Snow remained for as long as 4 months. Attributed to an Icelandic volcanic eruption, although details regarding this are slim. Heavy snow also fell early in both years with snow falling as early as October. 1784 was a cold year generally. Sleet was recorded near the coast of the Moray Firth in August. Heavy snow fell in the South in October. The year was ranked in the top 10 coldest years recorded in the CET series. 1785 was very dry and cold with again early snow in October. 1786 had a very dry summer and was persistently cold from September to November.


Long frost lasting from late November until early January. The Thames froze completely and a 'frost Fair' was held on it.


 Exceptionally severe winter. The cold beginning on Christmas Eve and lasting until late March with a few temporary breaks. January was particularly cold, with a CET of 0.8c. It was the coldest January in the instrumental era beginning 1659. The Severn and Thames froze and 'Frost Fairs' started up again. An extremely bitter temperature of -21c was recorded in London on January 25th. In early February there was a rapid but only temporary thaw, flooding ensued. The severe cold returned slightly later (mid February) and continued well into March. There were many recorded snow events. The winter was anticyclonic (High Pressure dominated) and Easterlies were dominant throughout. In Scotland it was the seventh coldest at Edinburgh in the series 1764/65 1962/63. (coldest 1779/80). 


December was severe with frosts in London and elsewhere. -21c was recorded in London as was -19c.


Severe frost lasted from late December to early January in London and the South. Heavy snowfalls were recorded especially in North Eastern Scotland, transport was disrupted for some time.


Spring was very cold and was recorded as being very cold in the CET series.


A late start for severe winters in the 1800s but January 1811 saw the Thames freeze again


In March 1ft of snow fell in Scotland around Edinburgh followed by drifting in a gale force North Easterly


One of the 4/5 coldest winters in the CET series. January to March was very cold. The tidal stretch of the Thames froze for the last time, the old London Bridge was removed and other factors helped increase the rivers flow, preventing ice forming again.  A frost fair was held on the Thames, possibly the last 'great' one. The frost began in late December, thick fog came with the frost, as was common in London at the time. Probably one of the snowiest winters in the last 300 years. Heavy snow fell for 2-3 days in early January, before a temporary thaw of 1 day. Then the frost just returned, possibly more severe than before due to the snow cover and persisted until early February. A thaw followed later and ice floating down the river damaged ships. Fog was also a hazard and took a long time to clear lasting from late December to early January, visibility down to 20 yards at times. Traffic hardly moved and travelling became very dangerous. The fog cleared following a Northerly gale in early January when heavy snow fell. A severe and very snowy winter.


Known as the year without summer, snow fell late summer never recovered and the winter proceeding it was severe. A volcanic eruption (Tambora: East Indies) disrupted wind patterns and temperatures greatly affecting the track of depressions which tracked further South than usual and making the UK very cold and wet for the summer and beyond. Scotland was drier though, an obvious sign that the depressions changed track. In September the Thames had frozen. Snow drifts remained on hills until late July.


Severe winter -23c was recorded at Tunbridge Wells.


Late May saw snow in London, probably the latest snowfall there until 2nd June 1975.


Severe winter, ice on the Thames by late December. February 8th saw a great snowstorm in Northern England. People had to tunnel through the snow.


Snow fell in October in London, very windy time with damaging gales.


Ice on the Thames.


A cold year, continuous frost throughout January. The summer was wet and quite cold. Over an inch of snow fell in early October. 6 inches fell in London and the South in late November. Northerly and Easterly gales damaged ships and some lost.


Severe winter, continuous frost from the 23rd to 31st December, 12th to 19th January, and 31st January to 6th February. Ice on the Thames from late December to late January. Some places completely blocked. 25th December 1830 was cold, with -12c recorded in Greenwich.


Snowy winter in Scotland. Snow lasted well into March, with 8 or 9 feet of snow being reported in parts. This trend continued for a number of winters with a lot of snow in Scotland. From early to late winter snow was a problem. There were considerable accumulations, becoming common throughout the winter. 


October snow reached depths of 5-6 inches, very unusual. 25th December 1836, roads impassable, snow depths reached a staggering 5-15 feet in many places and drifts of 20-50 feet


1837-38: Murphys winter. Patrick Murphy won fame and a small fortune from the sale of an almanac in which he predicted the severe frost of January 1838 (a 2 month frosty period set in with a light SE wind & fine day with hoar frost on the 7th (or 8th) January) (quoted from a web-page). 20th January saw temperatures as low as -16c in London, accepted as the coldest recorded here of the 19th century. -20 recorded at Blackheath, and -26c at Beckenham, Kent. The temperature at Greenwich was -11c at midday!!!! The Thames froze over.


Snow showers on 13th October.


Severe winter.


April, great snowstorm hit Southern England, coaches buried in drifts. Notably late snowfall.


The first of these winters saw heavy snowfall in Scotland. The railway from Aberdeen to the South was badly affected but kept open. Blizzards caused deaths. The storms stopped near the end of January. 1852-53 also severe particularly severe in February. Low temperatures and heavy snowfall lasted well into March.


Amazingly snowy winter for the UK especially the South East early on, the first week of December dumped 1-2ft in some places, worst in the South East. March of this month had many snowstorms and April recorded nearly 2ft of snow in the Midlands. Snowfall was recorded (on a notable scale) in November, December, January, February, March, April, and May.


Another snowy one. In the north snow cover remained for 3 months. Snow recorded in November, December, January, February, March and April. 


6 inches of snow fell in October in London. In January 3ft of level snow fell from East Devon to the Isle of Wight. There were 10ft drifts in Evesham and Dartmoor recorded 4ft. 


Wasn't snowy at all.


Snow fell in October, November, December, January, February, March, April and May. London recorded 1ft of snow in 7 hours in early January. In the North a blizzard dumped 2ft of snow widely and in May the North of England got a heavy fall.


2ft of Snow fell in Oxford in October. A ferocious blizzard raged in the North East in March. 10th June saw snow in Scotland of 6 inches. 11th July reportedly saw snow in the South and East, Keswick saw snow above 1000ft.


The UK had 4 consecutive years of little/average snowfall, the only noteworthy fall was of 1ft in the Eastern spine of the country. 1899-00 saw general snow of 1ft, 2ft in places. The following year wasn't exceptional either, although 5-7ft of snow was recorded in North Wales and Northern England. Both years were snowy. 


Snowfalls were only little /average again, passing more than a resemblance to the 90s. Some heavy falls were recorded though.


Norfolk and Suffolk recorded 1ft of snow in 23rd April, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire recorded 1-2ft two days later. 1908-09 was practically the same as the proceeding year, both snowy with 08-09 recording up to 2ft of snow in South East England in March and a great spell of snow in February affecting practically everywhere.


1909-15 recorded little or average snowfalls, nothing really to write home about, other than a few falls of up to 2.5 ft, but no real consistency in the cold/snowy periods. London came away with practically no snowfall in 1912-13 whereas Northern Britain was quite snowy. 


The snow drought ended abruptly in 1916, with enormous falls of snow in the mountains, 10ft in the Pennines, Black Mountains, and the High Peak District. Several general falls of snow recorded.


The Midlands and South West recorded large falls of up to 14 inches and in Southern and Western Ireland Cheviot Blizzard took place. The Highlands also saw lots of snow this year.


1917-18 was average, whereas 1918-20 saw deep snow in London twice, one fall being 9 inches. Scotland recorded large falls, as did the Midlands and North of England. September saw snow in Dartmoor.


1ft of snow fell in Plymouth and Southern England saw 6inches+ widespread. There was a blizzard in Scotland, North and West England, South Wales and South West England at the end of March.


Little snow in the South West but Braemar had 2.5ft of snow in November. A snowy year.


Late November saw snow in London, East Anglia and North East England, Norwich recording 7 inches. There was also notable snow in mid January and also mid May in the Cotswolds.


Snow fell mid December in England and Wales and on Christmas day to Boxing day a blizzard raged in Southern England from Kent to Cornwall. 1-2ft of snow fell, with 20ft drifts on Salisbury Plain. Snow fell mid March in the East. 


 A lot of snow fell in the West late December. 6ft fell in 15hrs on Dartmoor mid February.


February opened with 2ft of Snow in Northern England and Scotland, later snow fell generally (early March ) with 18 inches falling on Orkney. 


 Little snow.  Probably Scotland's most snowless winter in memory.


Late October snow fell in Scotland. Late February there was a Great Blizzard for Ireland, Wales, South West England, Northern England and the Midlands. Whipsnade recorded 2ft of snow, Harrogate and Huddersfield 30 inches, Buxton 28 inches.


Early December saw snow in Scotland, predominantly the North. Late February saw the next big snowfall with a blizzard in many parts, 1ft recorded in Northern England and Scotland. Early March saw snow for Southern England. A blizzard swept through the whole northern portion of the UK in mid March. 


These years were all snowy with numerous falls of 1-2ft and occasional falls (such as 1940-41) in which snow depths of up to 16 foot (drifts) were recorded. Places worst affected by this mini outbreak of snowy winters were Scotland and Northern England but the South was also quite badly affected, more particularly the South West and Wales. 1939-40 saw the supposed 'blizzard of the decade' in Scotland and England when in late January snow fell widely, excluding only some areas. The snowy period ended in 1942-43 when little snow was recorded the next 2 winters.


Mid December saw snow in Western Scotland. In the first half of January snow reached a depth of 2ft in Bellingham. Late January saw South Wales, and South West England bear the brunt with 1-2ft, Cardiff seeing 30inches. Northern England and Southern Scotland had some snow late January.


One of the snowiest winters to date, probably the worst since 1814. Snow fell on the 19th December in Southern England. Then there was a notable mild spell, extremely mild in parts, with 14c being reached by day. Then from the 22nd January it began. There was continuous snow cover from this date, right up till 17th March. Late January saw 7 inches of snow in South West England and the Scilly Isles. Early February saw the turn of the Midlands (Southern) and East Anglia, while Northern England, North Wales and Eastern Scotland had snow in late February. In early March there was a blizzard in England and Wales with 1ft widely and 5ft accumulated on the hills. 12th March saw snow for the Border Country. 1946-47 was strange because it started late and lasted a long time.


Little or average snowfall although some large falls of up to 12 inches.


This winter will be remembered as the snowiest winter of last century at high levels. There were 102 days of lying snow at Dalwhinnie (1000ft) (83 days reputedly in 1946-47) 15th December saw 15 inches of snow In Shanklin, IOW, in 3.5 hours. Bournemouth saw 10 inches, Scarborough and Lowestoft, 14 inches. 


Average years in terms of snowfall though one noteworthy fall of 1ft in Wales and the Southern Midlands ( late November ) with drifts of 30 feet. Some other falls of 12 inches at the end of this period.


2 snowy winters, Aberdeen seeing 2ft in December 1954. Early January 1955 snow of about 4-12 inches. Mid January was snowy as well with falls of 5ft in Blackpool, Lancashire, and Yorkshire (drifts). Northern Scotland and North East England also had large falls of up to 2 feet. February was generally snowy, although especially in Northern Scotland. Mid May had snow in the high Pennine regions. December 1955 saw frequent blizzards affecting Scotland most. 


Shoeburyness had 23 inches this winter.


The summer of 1959 was one of the FINEST/LONGEST of the (20th) century; some of the highest temperatures occurred in July.
(May to September):
This 5-month period is regarded as the DRIEST such period for more than 200 years; just over half-average RAINFALL across much of England and Wales, with some places even less. September 1959 in particular was EXCEPTIONALLY DRY with just 8mm of RAIN, it ranks as the DRIEST September in that set (as at 2007), and one of a dozen or so DRIEST "any-name" month. The eight week period from second half of August to early October 1959, was regarded as unusually DRY. (see also 1980).



Snow in the Christmas week, widespread with London and the South East seeing 6 inches. Early January in the Midlands saw 14 inches of snow. Snow in March also, especially Scotland, but 10 inches recorded in Jersey.


A famous winter. Very cold. Mid November saw snow in the South West. Late December (commencing Boxing Day: the start of the bitter cold) saw blizzards in Southern England. London had 12 inches of drifting snow. January and February had widespread falls, especially Devon and North East England with 2ft. The snow in Hampshire was supposedly as deep as the hedgerows were high. People managed to walk on the tops of the frozen shrubbery rather than risk driving through the deep snow.


The second half of November saw snow in most areas. The next lot came a bit later, late January, in Eastern parts. February, the turn of the North East. April was surprising though as heavy falls were recorded, exceptionally heavy in parts of Northern England where up to 1 foot was found. Mid April saw more snow with 5 inches in the South. 


The first of these 2 winters saw snow in late December, around the New Year, in Eastern Scotland and England. Eastern Yorkshire saw a massive 16 inches. Mid February saw more snow this time more to the West, with England and Wales seeing the most. Mid March saw more in the Pennines, and a TV mast fell down. 69-70 saw snow for Northern England, North Wales, and Scotland in mid November. Mid December saw snow for the North again. Mid February most parts and early March, snow in Wales and England, with the Midlands getting 12 inches.


1. SNOW and SLEET occurred in June as far south as the London area during the first few days of June 1975 (sleet as far south as Portsmouth). (also noted on 12th Jun 1791). The snow melted away almost immediately, except over the higher parts of central and northern England. This is thought to be the first time since July 1888, that snow has been reported so widely so far south in summer. More than 10 cm of FRESH SNOW over the highlands of Scotland. SNOW (circa 2.5cm/1 inch) stops play (subsequently abandoned) at a CRICKET MATCH [ Derbyshire v. Lancashire ] at Buxton, Derbyshire on the 2nd.


1975/1976 (two-year drought):
1. The famous DROUGHT of 1975/76 was memorable for its severity over most of the British Isles, and also for its exceptional persistence. It produced the highest values for a drought index for south-east England in three hundred years. Not since 1749/50 had a period from one summer to the following spring been so dry in southern Britain. At Oxford, every month from May 1975 to August 1976 had below average rainfall with the sole exception of September 1975. It was the DRIEST 16-month period on record for England and Wales. The severity of the drought was highlighted by the acute hydrological impact of an exceptionally dry winter being sandwiched between two hot, dry summers. The drought was most severe in south-eastern England but was felt widely across England and Wales, and the most stringent water supply restrictions were experienced in South Wales, where water was cut off for up to 17 hours a day to domestic consumers. North-west England and much of western Scotland escaped the attentions of this notable drought and were more frequently subject to the passage of fronts associated with cyclonic systems displaced northwards by the high pressure over southern England.
1976 (June/July):
1. No previous HEAT WAVE in Britain, nor any since, has ever come close to the duration of the late June/early July 1976 HOT SPELL. From the 22nd June to 16th July, the temperature reached 80 degF daily. Even more remarkable, from 23rd June to 7 th July, a period of 15 consecutive days, the temperature exceeded 32 °C somewhere or other in the country.



Heavy wet snow fell in early December, mid December and mid January. 


Mid January 6 foot drifts. A week later and 4 inches fell. Mid February saw 4 inches also. Late January, heavy snow in Scotland, drifting, 28 inches falling in parts. Mid February  was very snowy in the North East, East and South West. February 11th had 1 ft in Durham and Edinburgh. Feb. 15-16th South West England, blizzard with huge drifts.


The last really severe, snowy winter. Late December falls of 6-7 inches in Southern Scotland and the North East started it off. It was very cold in parts. Mid February saw drifts of 6-7 feet on the East coast of England. Mid March had severe blizzards and drifting, in North Eastern England drifts reached a staggering 15 feet. Very snowy.


Mid December, South West and Southern England seeing 12 inches. North East England had 7 inches, with 6 foot drifts. 2 days later (20th December) Northern England got 7 inches and 6 foot drifts. Mid January there was general snow with a cover of 1-2 feet in parts. Snowy, and very cold.


Very cold and snowy especially in Southern England. It was a very cold winter. Early January there was snow in Eastern England. Mid January, East Anglia and Kent getting 6 inches. Mid January, South West England and South Wales. Late January seeing snow in Scotland and the prone spots, such as Aviemore, getting 2ft of level snow, Northern Britain as a whole affected though. Mid February, Southern England, 6-12 inches, substantial drifting taking place. 29th March gave Scotland snow. 


8 inches of snow in the Midlands in early December 1990 with 2 foot drifts in Derbyshire. In early January there was 1 foot of snowfall in Northern Scotland. In mid February there was general snowfall, with Bingley in Yorkshire seeing 20 inches.


Little or no snowfall.


1993-96 weren't so bad though, with falls of up to 40cm in Leeds (January 25th 1995 I remember 1995 very well, it was a good year for snow, the coldest temperature since records began recorded in Braemar, Scotland) In 1993 there was a white Christmas in South Wales (yippee!) and Wessex. Before that, there was some snow for Scotland and Wales (6 inches 20th-24th December) and 4-8 inches of snow in late November for the Eastern spine of the UK. The IOW (Isle of Wight) to Lincolnshire saw 6 inches in early January. Mid February (1994) saw 4 inches in Northern England. Late February had 1ft of snow in Eastern Scotland. 1994-95 saw many falls of up to 40cm throughout the UK. I remember walking home from school in early march 1995 with a blizzard commencing, 15cm in total, we were off school for a week! As I said above, Leeds saw 40cm of snow in 3 hours in late January 1995! Late March also saw snow for the Northern half of England, 35cm widely here. 1995-96 saw snow on Christmas Eve/ Day in Scotland and the North East, with 35cm falling in the Shetlands. The end of January (South East) and early February (North West: Lancashire 13cm, 2 foot drifts) and also South West Scotland seeing some as well. Mid February saw some more in the South, before some more to end the season in mid March (East).


1997-00 hardly any snow.



CET denotes Central England Temperature