(March 1997) The Great Snow Storm of 1881

Account of the Great Snow Storm of January 18th to 19th 1881 written by Joshua Lamb a few days afterwards

The severe weather which culminated in the great snow storm of January 18th to 19th having somewhat abated gives me an opportunity of recording some of the difficulties we have recently passed through.

It was after many sharp nights during which the thermometer seldom registered less than 28 degrees of frost (Fahrenheit)[-16°C] that on the morning of Tuesday January 18th we found the wind blowing strong from the North East with ten degrees of frost; the gale gradually increased in intensity until it blew a hurricane and the cold was almost unbearable to the strongest and most enduring, no one venturing out of doors except those of us who had livestock to attend to or for some other reason where compelled to do so.

About two o’clock in the morning the snow which had fallen a day or two previously and was perhaps two inches deep, began drifting and a clearance of all exposed places was soon made together with large quantities of dust from the ploughed fields which might be seen coming like a cloud towards you and ultimately lay many inches thick under all the hedgerows and in sheltered spots and in many places will require carting away when the snow has all melted. Great damage was done at this juncture to thatched buildings and ricks. About dinner time it commenced to snow and we were soon surrounded by the most terrific storm ever known by anyone now living in this neighbourhood. It came so thick and fast that it was impossible to see any distance in front of us drifting very much all the time. The snow blew into my face and neck and the warmth of the flesh partially melted it till it became one solid mass of ice and snow, my mouth, eyes and nose being the only parts visible when I reached home at night and at times they too were almost closed by it, great icicles formed even on my eyelashes and I found the effect of it for several days, my cheek swelling where one great cake of ice stuck all day.

We had got the turnip sheep in an exposed situation where hay racks and hurdles were blown(?)about like ninepins by the blast so we took them away into a meadow where we found many of them snugly buried under the blow next morning.

The storm continued through the night and all next day and closed about six in the evening having snowed continuously for about thirty hours. All the roads which lay at right angles to the storm were liberally choked with snow and it took ten men a week to open them in our village, the drifts in many places being level with the hedges.

A great number of lives have been lost in the snow, two strong men that I well knew were frozen to death, one of them being Henry Hosting(‘?) of Banbury who was out with a load of flour from Grimsbury Mill and was overpowered on his return near Deddington and took refuge in a hovel where his body was found eight days afterwards. The other was a wool buyer of Oxhill named Allitt who was returning hem the Banbury Twelfth Fair and was frozen to death between Epwell and Shenington.

The week succeeding the storm was also very severe, the thermometer generally registering 20 degrees of frost (Fahrenheit)[-11°C] each night and on one occasion it went below zero [-18°C].

Read what the Vicar recorded in his diary about the same event.