Sunderland's 'Mini Ice Age' saw 67 days of snow, but children still went to school - in shorts

It was the year when Sunderland had snow on the ground for 67 days – but children walked to school in shorts!

They were made of tough stuff 60 years ago. The winter of 1963 has been described as a ‘mini Ice Age’ by some people who lived through it.

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Your memories of that year had us open mouthed. Let’s have a look at some of them.

The year of 15ft snow drifts in the Sunderland area.
The year of 15ft snow drifts in the Sunderland area.
The year of 15ft snow drifts in the Sunderland area.

‘You could not see the other side of the street in the blizzards’

Janice M Bray got a bike for Christmas in 1962 and said: “I didnt get to ride it until March 1963.”

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Steve Burnaby Davies said: “I remember walking to school in it, in short trousers, freezing!”

Barry Marshall: “As bad as it was, can't remember being sent home from school. I do recall blizzards where you couldn't see the other side of the street.”

Gangs of workers were used to clear a road near Warden Law.
Gangs of workers were used to clear a road near Warden Law.
Gangs of workers were used to clear a road near Warden Law.

Elaine Dickinson: “That was the year I was born in December. My mam always said it was the storm of all storms.”

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‘The snow drifts were bigger than me’

Tony Spence: “Schools open all the time during the big freeze. Remember the snow drifts on the roadside being bigger than me.”

Christine Coxon: “Never missed a day of school. Had loads of sledging ,snowball fights. Great days.”

Men are hidden by giant drifts as they try to dig out a stranded bus and van.
Men are hidden by giant drifts as they try to dig out a stranded bus and van.
Men are hidden by giant drifts as they try to dig out a stranded bus and van.
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Jan Mardghum: “It was great even with freezing cold feet cos the snow was so deep it went over the top and into my Wellingtons.”

Muriel Peverley: “Schools didn't close and I remember my dad still going to work.”

David Pringle: “Remember it well. School I went to, Bede, never appeared to be closed. Played on our sledges, or had snowball fights for our recreational fun.”

‘I was terrified of falling’

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Taken just after midday on a February 1963 day on the Durham to Sunderland road.
Taken just after midday on a February 1963 day on the Durham to Sunderland road.
Taken just after midday on a February 1963 day on the Durham to Sunderland road.

Veronica Knowles: “I remember hating going in the schoolyard and being terrified because of all the slides that had been made. I was terrified of falling and didn’t like it all.”

Alma Richardson: “I remember this too. I was pregnant at the time. Most people cleared a path outside their houses so others could walk. Nothing stopped, schools didn't close, teachers got there to do their jobs, doctor's worked and still made house visits. Buses carried on running, as did trains.”

Bob Langley: “Great fun we had then. And went to school.”

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Chris Lloyd, nee Burton: “We had to walk from Pennywell down to Havelock school and back. I was 13.”

‘I stayed at my nanna’s until the snow went’

Helen Robinson: “All the men in our road came out and shovelled the snow from the path onto the grass verge. It was about 3ft high! I walked from Grindon to St Mary's but went to my nannas after school.

Sunderland's mobile police officers check road conditions near Offerton road ends on the Sunderland Penshaw road in February 1963.
Sunderland's mobile police officers check road conditions near Offerton road ends on the Sunderland Penshaw road in February 1963.
Sunderland's mobile police officers check road conditions near Offerton road ends on the Sunderland Penshaw road in February 1963.
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"She lived just off Chester Road. My mam brought me some clothes down and I stayed there until the snow went.”

Six million tonnes of snow fell on Sunderland in 1963. It lay 13 inches deep at times with 15ft snow drifts.

Anti-freeze froze in cars

Anti-freeze froze in cars. There was 45 days of continuous snow and 67 days of it lying on the ground.

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Thanks to Philip Curtis and Sunderland Antiquarian Society for sharing the original story, and to every Sunderland Echo follower who shared memories. Share your own recollections of Wearside’s past. Email [email protected]