Severe Winter Weather

The Big Freeze in 1987

January 1987 – I probably only remember it as well as I do because of the photographs I took at the time.

We rarely get snow these days – I think the last really ‘big freeze’ was 2009.  In January 1987, I was one of a dozen Executive Secretaries working for the Board of Directors at Guardian Royal Exchange in London, and commuting daily.  Once the blanket of snow was down – everything stopped for a few days – no trains – and at first, no London coaches. My boss told me to stay put, and not to chance it on the roads, which were like glass.

My main concern was getting hot meals to my relatives. The Co-op at Tarpots had run out of milk, bread and many other things. At that time I had three sets of elderly relatives. My retired parents (Kay and Richard Bird) lived in the 1950s bungalows in the High Road halfway down to Cemetery Corner, and an elderly Aunt & Uncle (Lillie and Bill Thompson) lived in Limetree Avenue. My husband’s parents (Irene and George Gaines) lived in Malwood Road.  Allan and I took our VW camper van up to Sadler’s Farm and stocked up with what fresh vegetables they had. We always had a chest freezer with the necessities as, because we both worked in London, we shopped monthly. I had plenty of chicken and bread. I remember doing enormous pots of chicken casserole, and running them to my relatives to tide them over until the local shops were re-stocked and the pavements less slippery.

I remember our local milkman wouldn’t chance it down Manor Road. He parked in the layby in front of the Church Road shops, and people had to go to him. The WRVS meals-on-wheels must have been having trouble getting round to people, because one of my photos shows a yellow van from the Council helping out.

I don’t think this cold snap lasted more than a week, but it was ferocious while it was here. I wonder if anybody else has memories of this time?

High Road, Benfleet, looking towards Croft Road
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Great Tarpots with my husband driving our VW camper van, turning right into the High Road
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
High Road Benfleet, looking towards Cemetery Corner
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines
Church Road, New Thundersley with a Council van delivering meals to the elderly
Pamela-Jeanetta Bird Gaines

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  • I remember, that snow was forecast for the evening, I’m sure it was back to school after the Christmas break, I was 3rd year I think.
    I was outside playing with my dog and the first flakes fell. The joy, and that wonderful almost metallic smell that you get.
    Then the next morning and hearing the schools that had closed.
    Running around to play with my next door neighbours, Lee Barlow.
    I’m sure I had an extra week off, and the absolutely piles of snow that had been moved onto the pavements.

    By Nick Ahern (20/09/2021)
  • When I moved to Benfleet in 1962 there was an even bigger freeze that lasted from December to April.  Our milkman I am afraid did not make it through this period nor did we have any coal delivered to our Bungalow in Wavertree Road, which was unmade at that time.  My wife and I worked in Ilford and Hainault at the time and had to walk to Benfleet station, finally arriving at work about 10-00 hours where our bosses did not believe the depth of snow we were enduring in Benfleet and surrounding areas. I had to dig a pathway from my Bungalow to the next Bungalow with snow stacking at about 4 feet.  Good old days, I think not.

    By Mr. L. W. Cousins. (01/03/2017)
  • There was a bigger freeze in 1947, when the buses had  to have chains on the wheels for going up and down Bread & Cheese Hill, and it lasted for some weeks. All the kids were trying to find places to sledge. I was at school in Hadleigh at the time and the school ran out of coke so there was no heating. We had to sit in class with topcoats on every day for a few days, even our teacher had a big fur coat on; Miss Grimshaw, I can still see her sitting at her tall desk. She taught us all lessons, maths to history, reading, writing, R.E., geography. That was when you learnt your basic education.

    By Brian Bellamy (07/12/2016)

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