The recent severe weather has
revived memories of 1963 when there was a relentless succession of snowy, icy weeks from Boxing Day to the beginning of March.
Less well recalled I am sure is January 1979. Writing in his Memory Lane pages for the Oxford Mail edition of January 21, 2013, John Chipperfield highlighted ‘1979 and plenty of fun in the snow’.
North Oxfordshire youngsters were not slow to take advantage of the conditions.
Undaunted by the sub-zero temperatures many exploited the slopes of Crouch Hill, whilst three Banbury boys Sean Joyner, Paul Boffin and his brother Gordon brought out their toboggan to make the most of the snow near the Bodicote flyover.
The majority adult view of the Arctic weather conditions was distinctly different, especially as concurrently strike action was creating mayhem of a different sort that resulted in food and fuel shortages.
Farmers had their own problems, though most seemed to be coping.
Ken Gibbard, chairman of the Banbury Branch of the National Farmers’ Union, got it right when he observed that given the conditions ‘it simply means looking after the stock a bit better’.
Sport was badly hit, so much so that local soccer clubs faced fixture chaos.
Banbury United had to play at least 30 matches before the end of the season.
These included games that would have lit up the gloom of January, notably against Headington Amateurs in the Oxfordshire Senior Cup and Merthyr Tydfil, Southern League opponents who topped the table.
The weather conditions increased awareness of risks to property and also brought out the best of Banbury Guardian news captioning with their line ‘all hands to the pipes!’
Very low temperatures did not help those New Year’s Eve revellers whose celebrations encompassed open air gatherings. They had to endure temperatures of -10˚C.
No wonder ‘Banbury shivered through its coldest night since the big freeze of 1963’.
By January 18 a white blanketing had turned the Peoples Park into ‘a winter wonderland’. Just beyond Banbury on the Bloxham side the stream by Lamprey’s Mill ‘resembled a picturesque winter tableau’.
In early daylight hours council snow-clearing gangs were caught on camera shovelling snow from town centre pavements and this despite numerous industrial disputes.
On the roads it was not such a happy scene.
Motorists on the A34 near Chipping Norton were confronted by a sign ‘warning A34 not gritted’ (an effect of the strikes).
Meanwhile, in Banbury and district bus services were thrown into turmoil at the same time as a fare increase was announced.
Searching for good news was not easy but not impossible.
As today’s illustration reminds my readers, Lindy Bakeries was all set to open a hot bread shop on Saturday, January 13.
Its location was in the Cherwell Centre, which was offering a retail challenge to the supremacy of the original Castle Centre.
Tempting offers of sausage rolls and jam doughnuts added to the sense of occasion inspired by the cartoon effect.
A very different advertisement also inspired a way to beat the weather response.
The Wroxton House Hotel challenged people to ‘Get out of town’ despite conditions. They went on to say ‘at this dismal time of the year why not cheer yourself up by leaving your office or home and drive a couple of miles down the road to our warm cosy restaurant’.
Another way of putting a brave face on conditions was to look forward in time to the annual Banbury Carnival Queen contest.
The first reminder of this came in boxed form in the Banbury Guardian and read ‘Girls! Forget the snow, forget the strikes. Turn to page 4 for great news.’
Despite these gleams of cheer and, as on several earlier occasions such as 1934 and 1947, floods followed in the wake of the freeze.
Half an inch of rain fell on several inches of melting snow.
Parts of Spiceball Leisure Centre were under water and the River Cherwell was at the highest level since the flood improvements scheme of the 1960s.