THE following excerpts are written by author Marion Parsons and feature in her series of local memory books, Cricklade Revealed, which are available now.

Following the heavy snowfall and icy temperatures last week, we revisit the equally cold winters of 1940, 1947 and 1963 to see how residents in the Cotswolds coped back then.

The winter of 1940 January 1940 was a severe wintry month with frequent frosts and heavy snowfalls. This was the first month of the 20th Century when sub zero temperatures were recorded in the UK, and the coldest since February 1895.

Bert Nash, then working for the Western Electricity Company based at Cirencester described what happened.

‘Winters were much colder in those days, and on January 31st 1940, even small blades of grass were covered in ice. It was so bad it pulled many of our electricity poles down.

'On a line from Cricklade to Latton they all lay flat on the ground. You couldn’t get to open the isolators to get people’s electricity back on because they were all covered in six inches of ice. You couldn’t climb any of the upright poles because they were covered in a thick layer of ice too, and your hands would slip off the pole, so we had to carry ladders about to climb them and knock all the ice off.

'Cricklade lost every bit of electricity, and it took a fortnight to get it back on, so people had to rely on candles and oil lamps. And then we had a shut down near Devizes.

'When the engineer came to pick me up at 6am from Cirencester that day he wore socks over his shoes – he couldn’t walk you see – and he said he’d nearly been in the ditch six times driving over to Cricklade.’ The winter of 1947.

Those who lived through the Big Freeze from January to April 1947, are unlikely to forget the experience, since it was one of the bitterest winters in living memory. Heavy snow falls meant hundreds were stranded in snowdrifts, and all forms of travel became severely restricted. Troops and POWs had to be brought in to clear snow and to rescue cut-off villages and farms.

Avril Collier, then a Cricklade schoolgirl, described the severe winter of 1947.

‘They needed to get the milk from the local farms to the Co-op Creamery at Latton, and the only way to do that was with tractors. These cut through the snow along the old Latton road, and we walked from Cricklade to Latton under this cutting.

'There was no movement of anything – it was absolutely wonderful! People skated on the Latton Lido, and you could skate on North Meadow too. We had no lights – the electricity went out – and no coal could get through. I can remember chopping up wood to make fires because we had no heating.

'Nothing could get delivered – it was part-rationed food in the shops at the time – and the freeze went on for weeks, and yet somehow we managed.’ The winter of 1963 This was one of the coldest winters on record in the UK – particularly in the south and west. Extremely heavy snow first arrived on Boxing Day, 1962, and from December 29th - 30th a blizzard swept across the land.

'Snow drifted to over twenty feet, driven on by gale force easterly winds, blocking roads and railways, stranding villagers and bringing down power lines. January 1963 was the coldest month since 1814 and in February 1963 even more snow came. The thaw finally arrived in early March.

Dorothy Ponting when living at South Leighfield Farm, the Leigh, recalls this memory: ‘This was the most terrible winter of our lives. On Boxing Day 1962 we woke up to snow everywhere. We had no electricity, the ceiling had come down in the sitting room, and I was expecting my son in three week’s time.

'Eventually the doctor came out, but our road was completely blocked so he had to go via Ashton Keynes as they’d used snow ploughs to open up that track. Later, with no phone and the baby only a month old, the farm-workers had to walk between twenty feet high snow drifts down to the Three Horse Shoes pub, where the doctor had left supplies for me.

'We were cut off on this road for about six weeks, and in the end the farmers used what they called the ‘wagon-train’ to take the milk to the Express Dairies in Swindon, going across one field after another because of the drifts on the road.

'They used a tractor at the front, and several little trailers on the back to pull their churns along – all the farmers travelling in together. Because no one could go to work, my brother-in-law came to help, wearing his long overcoat and sitting on the back.

'The Express Dairies were at Gorse Hill, and once, on arrival, he was found to be missing. He’d fallen off the back trailer and nobody had noticed! But there was a wonderful community spirit.’

l Marion Parsons has written ten main and three supplementary booklets tracing the social history of Cricklade and its surrounding area based on the tape-recorded memories of local people.

Cricklade Revealed booklets cover the period from the 1920s to 1970.

Each booklet costs £3.60.

For more information contact Marion on (01793) 750542, or e-mail: