Local History

Extreme Weather, Winter 1927/28

What was it like to live in St. Mary Bourne in Winter? This post looks at the Winter of 1927/28 one of the known winters with extreme weather. Being in the South of England extreme snow is not a regular occurrence, but for this winter it’s where the story starts.

A blizzard occurred over Christmas in 1927, the consequences of which are told here through contemporary newspaper reports & a photograph from nearby locations as well as a short video taken elsewhere in England.

The story then continues within the village of St. Mary Bourne told through photographs taken in the village at the time (most likely by Alfred Cook the local photographer) showing the floods in the village and also another newspaper clipping.

Blizzard Christmas 1927

1927-28: Snow fell mid December in England and Wales, and on Christmas day through Boxing day, a blizzard raged in Southern England, from Kent to Cornwall. 1-2ft of snow fell, with 20ft drifts on Salisbury Plain! Christmas day must have been phenomenal! Snow fell mid March in the East. Very Snowy.

The history of British winters1

The newspaper clipping below from Friday 30th December gives a description of the conditions in Overton, Hampshire just 9 miles from the village of St Mary Bourne on Wednesday the 28th. The village is isolated, cut off from those around it. The roads are blocked, a milk lorry stuck in a snow drift. A food shortage is a real concern.

Hampshire Telegraph & Post and Naval Chronicle. 30 December 1927

The parishoners of St. Mary Bourne would have been in a similar position especially those in the smaller hamlets of the parish. The shops were to be found in the villages of Stoke & St. Mary Bourne and the hamlet of Binley, they would have some food in them but not a lot. Accessing what was available would have been far easier for those close by and a huge undertaking for those a mile or two away. At this point in time food was bought fresh daily, it was another 30 years before refrigerators were becoming affordable for most UK households2.

A second clipping, tells how hundreds of inhabitants are assisting with clearing the snow but are without a snow plow. There is real concern for flooding which is exactly what happened a few days later, “the country is between the devil and the deep sea as far as the weather is concerned“.

Hampshire Telegraph & Post and Naval Chronicle. 30 December 1927

Clearing of the snow would have been prioritised for the train lines and main roads, as it would be today. This would allow food and necessities into the main villages. It is likely that anyone wanting to get to one of the shops in St. Mary Bourne or Stoke from one of the hamlets came via the fields, clearing the narrow lanes would have been very difficult in the immediate aftermath of the blizzard.

The video above gives a glimpse of the snowy conditions in England over Christmas 1927, I do wonder if any tobogganing took place in St Mary Bourne at this time, there are hills around that would be suitable.

Villages were cut off for days, some until the New Year. There are stories that in Kent food and other necessities were distributed by skiers and in Hampshire food parcels were dropped by aeroplane. For inland areas of southern England it became one of our most significant snow events on record…

Extract from the Met Office Official Blog3
Aerial photograph of Whitchurch, Hampshire. c. late Dec 1927/early Jan 1928.4

The aerial photograph above shows the roads in the centre of Whitchurch (3.9 miles from St Mary Bourne) being cleared of snow. As the roofs are mostly clear I would think that this was taken either at the end of December or beginning of January.

Floods January 1928

1928 The thaw of the Christmas 1927 snowstorm on the 3rd, combined with heavy rain in the first week of the new month, and a North Sea storm surge on the 6-7th, along with a very high spring tide, with northwesterly winds and the depression sitting over the North Sea, led to severe flooding of the southeast. Central London was particularly badly affected. It was said that the Houses of Parliament stunk of dead fish! 14 people drowned. The estuary flooded over the banks of the Thames as far west as Hammersmith.

British weather in January5
January Rainfall in mm 1923-1933 (Southampton Mayflower Park Station)6

January 1928 had the highest rainfall during the period 1923-1933, as can be seen in the graph above. This along with the melting snow caused severe disruptions in the first week of January 1928.

The article below gives details about the county roads, which are cleared and that there are serious concerns for flooding. It advises motorists to make enquiries before setting off as the position changes hourly.

Hampshire Telegraph & Post and Naval Chronicle. 06 January 1928
View towards The Old Post Office, January 1928 and 6th January 2024

This particular part of the village of St. Mary Bourne you can see has changed little over the last 96 years. The main difference visually is that The Old Post Office/Village Shop is no longer a business and the building now looks different at the front.

January 1928, St Mary Bourne. Flooded Village Street opposite the Village Shop.

The photo above shows the cottages opposite the shop, the flooding on that side of the row is worse as the rain runs off towards the cottages. The video below shows the road just before the cottages (now on the right) two days after heavy rain affected the village on 4th January 2024. When adverse weather hits the village many of the issues of the past still affect it today.

6th January 2024 just before Langley Cottage.

Scrolling through the photo gallery below will show you the other photographs of the flooding7 in the village in 1928.

The adverse weather of 1927/1928 is just one of the known occasions. Snow is not a regular feature in this area at least not in excess and when it does occur there are snow ploughs now to help clear it faster. However rain is another matter and floods do happen. With the river Bourne running through the village heavy rain can cause it to overflow.

  1. https://www.netweather.tv/weather-forecasts/uk/winter/winter-history ↩︎
  2. https://www.fantasticfridges.com/YoungLearners/RefrigerationatHometimeline#:~:text=During%20the%201950s%20Refrigerators%20started,this%20was%20up%20to%2058%25.&text=Today%2097%25%20of%20all%20homes,hospitals%20use%20refrigerators%20and%20freezers. ↩︎
  3. https://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2017/12/25/90-years-ago-parts-of-england-were-getting-buried-in-snow/ ↩︎
  4. Posted to the Whitchurch (Hants) Nostalgia Facebook group by Fiona McDonald, used with permission ↩︎
  5. https://www.trevorharley.com/weather-january.html?utm_content=cmp-true ↩︎
  6. https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/pub/data/weather/uk/climate/stationdata/southamptondata.txt ↩︎
  7. 1928 Flood Photo’s curtesy of Clive Wedge ↩︎

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