Frozen Thames and 30 inches of snow: Pictures show the 5 worst winters to hit Britain in living memory

Connor Parker
·4 min read
A parked car in snow covered in Braemar which had an overnight temperature of minus 23.0C. (PA)
A parked car in snow covered in Braemar which had an overnight temperature of minus 23.0C. (PA)

The UK recorded its lowest temperature in two decades on Wednesday night - but how does it compare to some of the coldest winters in living memory?

The mercury dropped to minus 23.0C in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, the coldest temperature recorded in the UK since 1995, according to the Met Office.

Forecasters said the last time a temperature below minus 20C was recorded in the UK was December 23, 2010.

The UK is currently being blanketed by cold winds coming in from the Baltic, leading to an unusually chilly February with more snow predicted over the coming days.

Watch: Overnight temperatures in Braemar reach record low

But what were some of the UK's other big freezes like? Well, Yahoo News UK has looked into the five coldest winters in living memory to see how the country reacted then.

The winter of 1946/47

Just as the country was trying to recover from the disasters of the Second World War, the UK was hit by one of its harshest winters ever recorded.

While the freezing temperatures caused havoc across Europe the UK was hit the hardest and caused severe hardship for many.

Read more: Incredible picture from space shows Scotland covered in snow as temperatures plunge to -23C

A police man in Trafalgar Square 1947 (PA)
A police man in Trafalgar Square 1947 (PA)

While still among the coldest winters ever recorded with temperatures hitting -21C it was the snow that caused the most problems.

Between January and March 1947, snow fell every day somewhere in the country for 55 days straight.

When the thaw finally came, this caused its own problems – melt-water pouring into rivers meant many burst their banks, leading to flooding across many areas.

Floods were so deep in some areas of Nottingham the water reached as high as the first floor in many homes.

People clearing the snow in Kent which had drifted up to four feet high, blocking the road. (PA)
People clearing the snow in Kent which had drifted up to four feet high, blocking the road. (PA)

The winter of 1962-63 the coldest winter in 200 years

This winter saw the ‘Big Freeze of 1963’ and is considered to have been the worst British winter of modern times.

It was so cold the River Thames and some parts of the sea froze over.

Read more: In pictures: North of England covered in snow as Met Office issues amber 'risk to life' weather warning

The weather was so cold parts of the sea froze over, like here at on the Kent coast. (PA)
The weather was so cold parts of the sea froze over, like here at on the Kent coast. (PA)

The winter wasn't famous for setting any records about the depths of the cold (although several temperatures lower than-20C were recorded), it was the persistence of the sub-zero temperatures that made it particularly harsh.

January saw an average temperature -2.1C, more than five degrees lower than normal - seawater freezes at -2C.

A man riding a bike on the frozen River Thames in 1963. (PA)
A man riding a bike on the frozen River Thames in 1963. (PA)

It is believed to be the coldest winter since 1740.

The Big Snow of 1982

The severe weather occurred in December 1981 and January 1982.

December 1981 was the coldest for 100 years (a record that stood until 2010),with a daily mean temperature of 0.3C.

In Bedlinog, Wales, the snow drifts were taller than people. (Getty)
In Bedlinog, Wales, the snow drifts were taller than people. (Getty)

There was also a lot of snow, blizzards persisted from December all the way into March with snow drifts reaching as hjgh as 23ft.

The coldest temperature recorded in the UK was registered during the winter at −27.2C in Braemar, the same place that saw the record lows on Wednesday.

The Big Freeze of 2010

December 2009 and January 2010 saw both low temperatures and significant snowfall.

Snow blanketed Great Britain on January 7, 2010 captured by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. (PA)
Snow blanketed Great Britain on January 7, 2010 captured by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. (PA)

The weather saw treacherous conditions for driving or walking – with 1,000 motorists stranded overnight on the A3 in Hampshire from January 5 to 6.

The winter weather brought was responsible for 25 deaths, widespread transport disruption, school closures, power failures, and the postponement of sporting events.

Canal boats frozen in their moorings as the Stainforth and Keadby Canal in Thorne, Doncaster. (PA)
Canal boats frozen in their moorings as the Stainforth and Keadby Canal in Thorne, Doncaster. (PA)

The winter of 2010-11

One winter later the UK was hit again by another freeze.

December 2010 broke the records for the coldest December since records began with a mean temperature of -1C.

The winter was notable for the snow starting much earlier than usual, with the country blanketed in late November.

Heavy snowfalls in Gateshead were similar to scenes across the country. (Getty)
Heavy snowfalls in Gateshead were similar to scenes across the country. (Getty)

Some 30 inches of snow was recorded in the Peak District, just outside of Sheffield.

Conditions led to numerous transport and infrastructure issues.

As the bad weather came in the run-up to Christmas, it was also estimated to have cost the British economy £1.2 billion per day.

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