1982: When the West Midlands shivered under feet of snow

While Athens and America have suffered serious snowfalls this winter, people here in the Midlands have enjoyed relatively mild temperatures.

But, for those who can cast their minds back 40 years, it has not always been this way.

Some people will recall when Britain shivered during a particularly harsh January, when it was so cold that ice floes appeared on the River Severn.

British Rail trackman Gordon Gudgin searches for the line at Walsall Railway Station

People talk about the cold winters of 1947 and 1963, but people from across the Black Country and beyond might remember it was January 1982 which broke many records.

That year on January 10 saw the lowest temperature recorded in England, when the weather station at Harper Adams Agricultural College, near Newport, registered minus 26.1C (-15F).

Thousands of pipes froze and entire villages were cut off by snow drifts, and troops were called in to be on standby to clear the roads - and the temperature in Shropshire was actually colder than that of the South Pole.

A bird's eye view of a section of Wolverhampton's snowy ring road shows

Wolverhampton’s treacherous carpet of snow posed plenty of problems for motorists but elsewhere, such as in Sedgley, people joined forces to help push cars stuck in deep snow in Claremont Road.

The tracks at Walsall Station became hidden by a blanket of snow.

Weatherman Bill Burrell, who died in 2015, aged 90, was at the time working as a researcher at Harper Adams and described later how he “could feel the ice forming on his nose, his eye-lashes sticking together and difficulty to breathe”.

The River Severn at Stourport is dotted with chunks of ice, while the nearby amusement park stands deserted

Speaking in 2007, he said: “It had snowed the night before but had cleared up and it was a lovely day, just bitterly, bitterly cold. It was painful to breathe in the air and it just got colder and colder and colder. I could not believe it when I saw the thermometer.”

Bill, who retired in 1984, said at the time that he believed global warming was partly responsible. The records show that people made major efforts to continue everyday life, and in Hales, just over the Staffordshire border, the Reverend Brian Morris was so determined not to let a couple down who were due to get married at the village church that he borrowed a farmer’s tractor.

Heavy snow at The Bridge in Walsall reduces traffic to a crawl

Even fire crews found themselves defeated as they answered what was thought to be an emergency call to the remote village of Nash, near Clee Hill.

Five firemen were trapped for nearly eight hours in the cab of their tender after attending a call to Nash Court School just after 2pm.

They eventually had to abandon the vehicle because of 10ft high snow drifts but walked the remaining three-quarters of a mile to the school but found it was a false alarm.

Caretaker Jack Sadler joins in the fun during the heavy snow at Cronehills Junior and Infant school in West Bromwich

The crew found they were stuck for the night and had to take shelter in the school.

However, unlike the winters of 1947 and 1963, when the freezing conditions continued until March, within a week the 1982 Big Freeze had become the Big Thaw with flooding becoming the main concern.

Ice floes in the River Severn at Ironbridge
Molly Hatfield studies icicles at her home in Brookhouse Road, Oswestry
Snow drifts in Wem, Shropshire. Photo: Keith Reynolds.
Dwarfed by the snow in Wentnor, south Shropshire. Photo: Sally-Ann Hudson.

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