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Matlock Bath: Winter Scenes, 1947
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Derby Road, 1947 - snow
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Here are series of photographs showing what the conditions were like in Matlock Bath in 1947, when Britain suffered one of the worst and prolonged snowfalls on record. Above is a picture of Derby Road, taken from outside the Clifton Cabin opposite the bottom of Clifton Road. The main road through the village wasn't totally impassable at this stage as a car is struggling through the snow, passing the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, and behind it a lorry is rounding the corner.

In early March 1947 The Times reported that in the north Midlands frost had been recorded on every day and night since January 10th. The main roads in both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire were blocked and there had been no general thaw in the area since early January. Snow had fallen, at one period, on 25 successive days[1]. The Derbyshire newspapers carried many stories about the difficulties being experienced, with photographs of really high snow drifts throughout the county[2].

The Midland General Bus Company were forced to cancel their service between Matlock and Alfreton at the beginning of February because of the drifting snow, although County Council workmen were trying to clear the road[3]. This route remained troublesome throughout the severe weather. When the bus service restarted there were chains on the tyres. Whilst the road conditions were considered to be the worst of the winter at that stage, the Matlock to Alfreton and the Cromford to Wirksworth roads were both clear on 7th February when a heavy fall of snow in the north of the county threatened the attempts to reach villages that had been cut off for several days[4]. Matlock's quarrymen, who had been out of work for a fortnight, were by then helping to clear the snow. They were additional to the 3,000 Council workers from across the county who were equipped with shovels, snow ploughs and bulldozers[4]. Further assistance came from both prisoners of war and soldiers who were brought in to help. One gang of snow clearers managed to cut their way through to Riber Castle so that Ministry of Food lorries could reach the supplies still stored there[4].

A number of hamlets and villages, including Riber, were still cut off on 10 February and the roads from Matlock to both Chesterfield and Alfreton were again impassable[5]. Twelve days later a number of roads in the Matlock area were blocked once more and buses were unable to run on some of the more hilly routes. It was proving impossible to deliver mail to some of the isolated hamlets and farms in the district. Although few homes had telephoned installed in 1947, more than a hundred faults were reported in Matlock, Matlock Bath and the surrounding district and elsewhere in the county there were reports of rabbits chewing the fallen telegraph wires[6].

Things were to get worse. On the night of 25-26 February blizzards again swept the county, with high winds causing drifting which yet again blocked the roads and cut off villages. The snowfalls varied from four to eight inches but the wind created drifts averaging three feet in depth. This blizzard was by far the worst of the winter in the Matlocks and householders woke up on 26th to find they needed to tunnel their way out through drifts four feet deep. In some districts milk collections from the farms were impossible, which in turn would have affected deliveries to households, assuming the milkmen could get through[7]. This was a time when many household commodities, such as bread, milk and coal, were delivered to directly to the door. The lack of such deliveries would have been a real hardship.

Below are more private family photographs of Portland House on Clifton Road taken by Cyril Edmonds and another of High Tor by Frank Clay, showing more of how the 1947 blizzards affected Matlock Bath.


Portland House, 1947
March 1947.
Clifton Road, to the right of Portland House, seems to have been totally blocked by the snow and
there is a drift against the garden wall of the house.
The two buildings on the far left are the Bath Terrace Hotel, by then part of the New Bath.
Between the hotel buildings and Portland House is the Mews, which at that time included two first floor flats.


Portland House - 2, 1947
 The snow reached the bottom of the windows and blocked the front door.


Portland House and the church, 1947
This view of the side of the house shows deep snow outside the [former] Bath Terrace Hotel.
It had drifted against the side garden wall of Portland House, covering a pile of debris, and in some places reached the top.


The fountain, 1947
The fountain in the gardens was encased in snow.
The drifts had formed an amazing snow sculpture.


Dale Road, 1947
The final photograph shows a well wrapped up young man walking
along Dale Road, with a snow covered High Tor behind him.


See Famous British Winters
(an external link)


Photographs of Derby Road, Clifton Road and Portland House taken by Cyril Edmonds in the collection of, provided by and © Christine Leila Hill
Photograph of High Tor and Dale Road taken by Frank Clay and © Ann Andrews.
Research provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only

References:

[1] "The Times", 8 Mar, 1947
[2] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 12 February 1947. At Hulland, for example, men had to dig through drifts that were ten feet deep.
[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 3 February 1947.
[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 6 and 7 February 1947.
[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 10 February 1947. When postmen volunteers made an effort to reach the small community of Pike Hall on the far side of the Via Gellia from Matlock they could get no further than one outlying farm.
[6] ""Derby Daily Telegraph", 22 February 1947.
[7] ""Derby Daily Telegraph", 26 February 1947.