Back in the 1980s, a group called Dream Academy wrote a song that included the line: “In winter 1963 it felt like the world would freeze”.
For those who weren’t around all those years ago, it may have sounded like poetic licence – a quick glance through the Mid Sussex Times from that year proved it wasn’t.
The Great Freeze, as it was known, saw temperatures in the UK drop as low as minus 19C and offered ample opportunity for snowman building.
It was so cold, the sea froze in several along several parts of the coast, as did parts of the Thames – pictures exist of people walking and cycling on the river.
To make matters worse, the powers that be kept calling off the football!
This proved no problem for some who made their own entertainment. One of our pictures, printed in the Middy in January 1963, shows an ice hockey match being battled out on the lake at Fox Hill, Haywards Heath.
Still in Fox Hill, a seven-tonne lorry came a cropper on the icy road when it skidded and overturned near the Fox and Hound Inn.
It had been carrying a load of meat, which had to be transferred to another vehicle before the lorry could be righted again.
They needn’t have rushed – it was never very unlikely to go off in those temperatures.
The Great Freeze started on Boxing Day 1962 and lasted until March. It brought snow drifts up to six metres deep while icicles more than a metre long hung from gutters.
Schools closed, phone lines were down and homes all over the country were hit by power cuts.
One power cut in Haywards Heath came thanks to the hand of man, though was indirectly caused by the weather. A large lime tree in Boltro Road was so badly damaged by the snow it had to be felled.
‘No problem’ said the tree surgeon as he gathered his equipment and got to work. ‘Big problem’ said everyone else when the tree took out electricity lines as it fell, plunging the police station, shops and homes into darkness.
The Middy report at the time stated: “No one was hurt, although several people had to jump out of the way pretty quickly.”
Twelve chaps from the Electricity Board then had to spend seven hours in the freezing cold attempting to restore the power, followed by a further five hours “putting everything back together again”. A master of understatement, the Middy reporter said: “And a bitterly cold job it must have been.”
Away from the cold three groups of lads were bringing the sound of rock ‘n’ roll to folk festival.
The Blue Stripes, The Satellites and The Echotones performed during the interval at the Mid Sussex Arts Festival and went down rather well with those present.
Does anyone know if any of the lads are still singing today?
Cyclists proved their worth and braved freezing water
The Great Freeze has hit and the temperatures outside are making the Arctic look warm and toasty – so what do you do? Well, if you’re sensible, you wrap up warm and stay indoors with a cup of tea and a good book.
Not if you were a member of the Uckfield & District Cycling Club or the Central Sussex Cycling Club in 1963!
No tea and comfort for them – they cycled down to Brighton at Christmas, stripped to their swimming trunks and took a dip in the sea.
These hardy chaps made the trip and dip every year and probably found the temperatures – which ranged from minus 2C to minus 19C that winter – to be bracing!
They were Cedric Pearson, Ken Jones, Pat King and Malcolm Verey.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage at www.wscountytimes.co.uk
2 Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wscountytimes
3 Follow us on Twitter @wscountytimes
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!
The County Times – always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.