The forecasters are predicting possible sleet and snow in the next week or two. Snow in March has occurred before, of course. Most famously, much of the country was deluged with the white-stuff exactly 120 years ago, in 1891, an event which became known as The Great Blizzard.
It kicked off this very day, 9 March and continued for four days, causing snow drifts in the country and havoc in the towns. Roads and railways became impassable, telephone and telegraph lines were taken out of commission. Ships were lost off the coast and and over 200 people perished across the country. Like our winter this year and in common with other severe winters, the Great Blizzard was preceded by pleasant Spring weather with everyone believing the worst was behind them. And just like today, our ancestors were incensed at the inadequate steps taken to combat the conditions.
Somebody has very helpfully scanned in contemporary news reports from the Times of 11 March 1891, here. But you’ll need your reading glasses. Here’s a flavour:
The night and day that followed are not likely to be forgotten for a long time. In London we had all the pleasant concomitants of a snow storm; no cabs or omnibuses at work for many hours, the streets first deep in muddy snow and then a pool of slush, which no man seemed even to wish to remove. … only the most miserably inadequate means were employed to clear the streets – an easy task, for the snow did not freeze – and to make them passable for the unhappy horses.
Just before Christmas, I wrote an item about notable cold London weather in times gone by, here. A bit of a throwaway item, I thought at the time, but it has been our most read blog post so far.