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Leicester Special Collections

The Winter of 1947

On top of continuing rationing and the absence of many family members who were still in the military, one of the events that is vividly remembered by many residents of Leicester is the winter of 1946/1947 that brought snow, blizzards and freezing conditions that drastically affected everyday life. Emergency squads and 200 German POWs were employed to clear the snow in an attempt to maintain a limited transport service. However, supplies of coal and fuel dwindled.[1] At the beginning of February factories began to close down due to the lack of fuel and 80,000 workers were laid off. Some schools in the city did manage to stay open but the attendance level dropped by 40%. Shops were encouraged to remain open but were prohibited from using any form of heating to preserve fuel supplies.

Dennis O'Brien recalls what it was like living in the city during the winter of 1947

Domestic coal supplies were also affected and many people remember the long queues to obtain coal. Domestic electricity was restricted to five hours each day and people could be fined or imprisoned for not sticking to this.[2] Maureen Partridge recalls how lucky she was - as her mum was a miner’s widow, her family were entitled to concessionary coal and so had no issues with staying warm. Margaret Fenwick was not as fortunate - her family only had an open fire in one room:

"We used to fetch our nightclothes down, warm them in front of the fire, get dressed quickly and run upstairs and get in bed because it was so cold."

Queue for coal outside the gas works on Aylestone Road, 1947

Queue for coal outside the gas works on Aylestone Road, 1947

Conditions in the countryside were even worse than in the city and many agricultural workers continued to work outside despite the perishing conditions. Bill Larder worked on a farm where he was snowed in:

"We couldn’t do anything…it was so cold…I couldn’t get the spanner away from my hand."

Rosemary Cramp talks about how the winter of 1947 affected her family's farm

On February 25th the first signs of a thaw emerged with temperatures reaching around 6°C, the warmest it had been for 38 days. However, despite the temperature improving problems continued, with the heavy snow causing floods as it melted in March.[3] The fact that many residents have such clear memories of this period highlights the impact that it had on their lives.

[1] Ben Beazley, Post-War Leicester (Stroud: The History Press, 2011), p.15.

[2] BBC Leicester, Wild Weather: Winter 1947 in Leicester, 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/leicester/hi/people_and_places/nature/newsid_8939000/8939777.stm

[3] Ibid

Winter of 1947