Weatherwatch: the great snowstorm that engulfed Britain in April 1849

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Panorama of a city business district with office buildings and skyscrapers and superimposed data, charts and diagrams related to stock market, currency exchange and global finance. Blue line graphs with numbers and exchange rates, candlestick charts and financial figures fill the image with a glowing light. Sunset light.

How newspapers – and Queen Victoria – described the unusually wintry conditions

The cold and snow this April may seem bizarre, but even worse has happened before. On 18 April 1849, a great snowstorm engulfed Britain. Roads were blocked, coaches were buried in monstrous snowdrifts, and telegraph lines collapsed under the weight of snow.

There was no escape from fierce north-easterly winds, and even London was covered with snow in a scene from the depths of winter. As Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace wrote in her diary for 18 April: “A dreadful day, – up to a little past 4pm, when it began to clear. It blew, & there were incessant showers of rain & snow, – so cold. It was impossible to attempt to go out.”

The Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review noted the surreal sight: “Some shop windows exhibiting summer dresses in all their finery, and the snow drifting about, is at once striking and unpromising.”

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