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Call this snow? The Big Freeze was worse

PUBLISHED: 14:26 05 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:54 07 September 2010

How the Ham&High reported the Big Freeze 1963

How the Ham&High reported the Big Freeze 1963

SCENES across the Ham&High area this week brought back memories for some of the Big Freeze during the winter of 1962-63. During the Christmas break, temperatures dipped as low as minus 16C degrees and the heavy snow drifted, causing chaos on the roads and

SCENES across the Ham&High area this week brought back memories for some of the Big Freeze during the winter of 1962-63.

During the Christmas break, temperatures dipped as low as minus 16C degrees and the heavy snow drifted, causing chaos on the roads and leaving hospitals teaming with patients who had fallen over on the ice.

Camden Labour councillor Roger Robinson was in his 20s at the time, which he remembers fondly.

He said: "I remember going out sledging on Parliament Hill Fields.

"I took my lovely sledge that I'd bought in Scotland. It was called a Snow Skimmer.

"I wasn't on the council then so that's what I spent my time doing.

"There were children throwing snowballs and people skiing on Hampstead Heath - I was a keen skier myself, actually.

"It was wonderful - there was a tremendous sense of community spirit.

"But the conditions were pretty horrendous. St Pancras Council, as it was called then, did a good job of gritting the roads.

"But I was still very worried for a lot of elderly people who were stuck indoors. I went out and took food to them in their homes."

During the Freeze Hampstead Council issued warnings to residents and hundreds of patients were admitted to hospitals with bumps and bruises.

Tempers flared among road users and Tube passengers who were affected by lengthy delays and a train was derailed at Golders Green.

Hampstead Council had 130 men working on Boxing Day to clear the snow and by the following week a task force of 400 had been assembled for the job, with five mechanical diggers, two snow ploughs and 38 other vehicles - at a whopping cost to the council of between £800 and £1,000 a day.

The story of the Big Freeze ran in the Ham&High under the headline of 'Look out for avalanches, see above.

Hornsey's deputy borough engineer, Mr H E Orr, said: "We have already worn out a snow plough that we only started using four days ago.

"I warn people about the danger of snow falling off roofs. There are going to be avalanches, so be careful."

St Pancras borough surveyor Kenneth Harman told the Ham&High it was the worst wallop they had had since 1947.

Several bodies of water in Hampstead froze over, including Whitestone Pond, which 19-year-old Geoffrey Page foolishly attempted to drive across in his van.

The ice gave way and his van got stuck.

While he escaped, the vehicle had to be dragged free several days later.


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