Weatherwatch: the great snowstorm that engulfed Britain in April 1849

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The cold and snow this April may seem bizarre, but even worse has happened before. On 18 April 1849, a great snowstorm engulfed Britain. Roads were blocked, coaches were buried in monstrous snowdrifts, and telegraph lines collapsed under the weight of snow.

There was no escape from fierce north-easterly winds, and even London was covered with snow in a scene from the depths of winter. As Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace wrote in her diary for 18 April: “A dreadful day, – up to a little past 4pm, when it began to clear. It blew, & there were incessant showers of rain & snow, – so cold. It was impossible to attempt to go out.”

The Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review noted the surreal sight: “Some shop windows exhibiting summer dresses in all their finery, and the snow drifting about, is at once striking and unpromising.”

The Inverness Courier was concerned about the impact on farming: “The lambs are fast appearing and equally fast vanishing again. Hardly half of them live above a few hours’ due to the cold ‘easterly wind and snow.'” Another concern were fruit trees, which “presented the unwonted spectacle of blossoms vying in whiteness with their load of snowy flakes.”

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