Weatherwatch: the great snowstorm that engulfed Britain in April 1849


How newspapers – and Queen Victoria – described the unusually wintry conditions

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.”

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