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Snow, Followed By Floods: That Was Christmas 1927

Published on: 21 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 21 Dec, 2013

By David Rose

Snow at Christmas is a rare thing here in Guildford. I have a distant memory of snow laying on Christmas morning in 1968, but I’m too young to really remember the hard winter of 1962-63. Whether people were dreaming of a white Christmas back in 1927 I can’t say. But they got heaps of the white stuff, only to see it melt after a week, to be quickly followed by floods!

There can’t be many people still alive who remember the events of 1927-28 in much detail, but here’s what happened, along with a selection of photos in my collection. It’s probably the first time so many images from that fall of snow and the floods that followed have been featured in a single article.

A stranded vehicle on the Hog's Back near Guildford, December 28, 1927.

A stranded vehicle on the Farnham Road near the Hog’s Back, Guildford, December 28, 1927. Note the telegraph poles ‘marching’ across the landscape.

Christmas Day 1927 was very gloomy. Heavy rain lashed down all day long. As darkness fell so did the temperature. Rain turned to sleet and then snow. By nightfall savage winds whipped across the North Downs, driving the snow into deep drifts.

On Boxing Day, people awoke to a white winter wonderland. The snow in Guildford town was a foot deep. But the fun of seeing this spectacle soon turned to misery. The temperature remained at zero (32F), the wind continued to howl, piling snow into more drifts that in some parts of the Surrey Hills reached 20 feet or more.

By Tuesday, December 27, Surrey was gripped by the worst Arctic conditions most people had ever experienced in the county. Some isolated communities were cut off for a week.

Another photo of the same vehicle as seen above. Milk churns can just been seen inside it. This was one of Lymposs & Smee's delivery vans.

Another photo of the same vehicle as seen above. Milk churns can just been seen inside it. This was one of Lymposs & Smee’s delivery vans. I wonder how long it took them to dig it out!

On the Hog’s Back the snow had drifted to about 15 feet and the road was impassable. A Lymposs & Smee dairy van was stuck for three days in Farnham Road near the Hog’s Back. It was reported that there were three buses and a lorry buried within two miles of Guildford town centre.

For those communities in Surrey that were stranded, the situation by New Year’s Eve had become serious. The Salvation Army chartered five aeroplanes to drop food supplies. But due to poor light conditions, it was often difficult for the pilots to see where to drop off groceries.

On the wireless the BBC told those who were stranded in parts of east Surrey to lay out black cloths in the snow ‘not less than 15ft diameter’ to help the pilots pinpoint their targets.

Crowds gather at the foot of the High Street to view the flodwaters. The timber in the foreground was most likely washed down from Moon's yard, now the site of Debenhams.

Crowds gather at the foot of the High Street to view the flodwaters. The timber in the foreground was most likely washed down from Moon’s yard, now the site of Debenhams. Allen’s sweet shop can be seen on the left.

On New Year’s Day 1928 the temperature rose slightly and the rain again came lashing down. By January 3 the River Wey was swollen and had burst its banks.

The view from Friary Street - looking towards the High Street.

The view from Friary Street – looking towards the High Street.

The crowds then came into Guildford to see the effects of the flooding at the bottom of the High Street near the Town Bridge and in neighbouring Friary Street.

Just over the Town Bridge on the west bank and cars are attempting to make their way through the water while a young lad goes for a paddle.

Just over the Town Bridge on the west bank and cars are attempting to make their way through the water while a young lad goes for a paddle.

This photo shows the same scene as the one above and was probably taken at the same time. The wall of St Nicolas' Church is on the right. The house of the left was by then the unlicensed Connaught Hotel. It was once the home of the Crooke family whose brewy was just behind it. The building was demolished in 1942. A car park is there today.

This photo shows the same scene as the one above and was probably taken at the same time. The wall of St Nicolas’ Church is on the right. The house of the left was by then the unlicensed Connaught Hotel. It was once the home of the Crooke family whose brewery was just behind it. The building was demolished in 1942. A car park is there today.

This view is from the yard of Crooke's Brewery (closed 1929). St Nicolas Church can be seen in the background. Out of view to the right is the Greyhound pub, now called the George Abbot.

Although the wording on the picture postcard states ‘Farnham Rd’, I think the view is from the yard of Crooke’s Brewery (closed 1929). St Nicolas’ Church can be seen in the background. Out of view to the right would be the Greyhound pub, now called the George Abbot.

 

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test 4 Responses to Snow, Followed By Floods: That Was Christmas 1927

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    December 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    http://booty.org.uk/booty.weather/climate/1900_1949.htm

    Corroboration here Mr Rose of your graphic piece. It must have been a miserable time.

    1927 (25th-26th December): WORST CHRISTMAS PERIOD BLIZZARD IN A CENTURY
    During the late evening of the 25th, what is regarded as one of the worst SNOWSTORMS in the 20th century occurred. Most of the country experienced snow, but the south bore the brunt: undrifted depths up to 60-70cm over higher ground, with drifts in varying places up to 15 feet or more [over 4.5m] – many roads blocked (some for a week) with vehicles stranded. The snow was noted as ‘soft & clingy’, bringing down many telephone lines – at this time few such were in underground ducts.

    ~~
    The Surrey Ad used to have an item on local weather observations. I believe the contributor lived in Onslow Village. Any chance of the Dragon doing something similar with the help of a local amateur meteorologist? You know how we all love ‘the weather’!

    David Rose replies: Thanks Mary for your comments – as a nation we are always talking about the weather. Regarding a metrological report, we would really welcome such a column, but have yet to find someone who would be prepared to submit regular reports. Such a column is just what we like here at The Guildford Dragon – while other local media don’t seem able to feature such things. Reports by our regular contributors under the Nature heading (the two National Trust lengthsmen Richard Cant and Robert Craig, birdwatcher Malcolm Fincham and photographer Dan James) are well read and enjoyed.

    A weather colunm that the Surrey Advertiser used to publish was by Dennis Mullen, who if I remember correctly, took his weather readings from the garden of his home in Johnston Walk, off Worplesdon Road. But it might have been Onslow Village.

    That was back in the 1970s and into the 80s. In the early 70s a friend of mine also submitted wether reports for a time. He started his records in 1967, and I believe he and his brother still take them from the same address. When I see him, I’ll mention the possibility of writing a regular column.

  2. Mary Bedforth Reply

    December 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Brilliant!

    I do enjoy the pieces from the River Wey lengthsmen and as a regular walker with my dog, who has the occasional swim in the river, I appreciate the work they do along the two sections.

    The towpaths are well used by walkers, runners and cyclists. I also like Malcolm Fincham’s bird notes, his eyesight is much keener than mine, not forgetting Dan’s photos.

    • Martin Giles Reply

      December 23, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment.

      It is always good to hear our reader’s views and, in this case, the appreciation of the contributions mentioned is particularly welcome and, in our opinion, well deserved.

  3. Roger Smee Reply

    January 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I was really most interested to read about the 1927 snowfall and flooding. The marooned Lymposs & Smee milk delivery vehicle was of particular interest to me.

    I would be very interested to see any more photos or hear of any memories or stories of the Lymposs & Smee dairy business.

    [David Rose adds: I have a selection of pictures of Lymposs & Smee milkmen and their floats, horse-drawn and electric. I can put a new story together (have featured them in print and books before several times), but would be interested in seeing any pictures readers may have, plus any stories and details about the diary firm. I think it had premises in High Street (Originally Lymposs), Friary Street (originally Smee), and also in Stoughton.]

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