Looking Back: Northampton in the snow

The first fall of snow and the roads, railways and even pavements make journeys impossible - the whole town seems to grind to a halt.

Friday, 11th January 2019, 4:26 pm
Clearing away the snow from Northampton's Drapery at its junction with Gold Street are four workmen with shovels. The lorry in the middle of the road is steam-powered which must have provided a welcome warming presence during the harsh winter of 1947 which began on January 21st. Several cold snaps brought wide-spread chaos with coal shortages at power stations resulting in domestic electricity supplies restricted to a chilly nineteen hours a day. Crops rotted in fields adding extra hardship on top of rationing, still in place after the Second World War. The thaw in Mid-March caused widespread flooding throughout the UK.

So how has Northampton and its people coped with wintry weather in the past?

Children with days off school made for the nearest slopes dressed in gloves, coats, hats, scarves and wellies.

Snowballing, sledging and even open air skating - though ice-skating on frozen rivers is definitely not recommended with all the dangers involved.

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Children enjoy their task of snowballing in the direction of the photographer. The group in Abington Park, Northampton, wearing duffel coats, mufflers and wellington boots, were caught on film on January 12, 1959

However, business must still go on, so the walkways, highways, byways and waterways need to be kept free of ice and snow.

Shovelling snow will certainly warm up the person wielding the spade even in the harshest weather.

Perhaps winters were worse in the past or was it that fewer people had central heating? Maybe chilblains were common because clothes weren't made of modern, light weatherproof fabrics so perfect for fun in the snow?

Cars and lorries would still get stuck on icy roads but there weren't as many journeys made at all and maybe more people walked to work, school and the shops.

Tobogganing down the slopes of Abington Park, Northampton children enjoy the snow on Monday, January 12th 1959. In the background is the water tower, which was a combined well-house (and dovecote) built in 1678 to supply water to Abington Manor.

Whatever our view of snow, it still looks beautiful and is undeniably fun unless you have to get somewhere in a hurry.

Weekend skaters make the most of the freezing weather by skating on part of the River Nene near Rushmere Road, Northampton, on January 17, 1959
Snow covers the Market Square, Northampton in 1962 with the distinctive tower of All Saints Church overlooking the south side of the historic market place. The cast iron fountain in the centre of the square was presented to the town by a Captain Isaacs to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. The fountain stood until it was removed later this year.
Working narrowboats struggle through the ice on the Northampton Arm of the Grand Union Canal on January 11, 1968. The Brown and Pank warehouse on the right later became derelict and was the victim of arson.
Pupils and staff ignore the snow and carry on with the tree planting ceremony at at Cherry Orchard School, Northampton, on January 15, 1966.
Shoppers and stall holders carry on through the snow in Northampton Market Square, on Thursday, February 10, 1966. A lone man with a shovel attempts to clear the pavement whilst in the background on the left someone is pushing a car out of the way. On the stall today fresh produce including some enormous grapes, boxes of mushrooms, leeks, parsnips and cauliflowers.
Jamie Holland and Milly Holland, 10, sledge down a hill at the Racecourse, Northampton, helped on their way with a push from William Sey. The group gathered in the snow on Thursday, February 5th 2009.