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    River Severn Frozen at Bewdley 1895

    • 2nd December 2016

    Wow. You loved this image of the River Severn frozen at Bewdley in 1895 (we’d misread it at first as 1898). It has been viewed over 35,000 times on Facebook, liked over 1500 times, shared over 300 times and received lots of comments.

    We’ve had a look to see what the newspapers said about this event but there is nothing specifically on the river freezing at Bewdley. The county papers do talk about the bad weather, but rather than fun on the ice it was mostly in relation to the amount of help being given to unemployed people. Bread, coal and soup were given to the poor, 200 gallons of soups being distributed in Bromsgrove alone. There was already a lot of unemployment, but the hard frost meant that a lot of outdoor work was impossible, causing a lot of hardship for people paid by the job. In 1890, and probably other years, many craft on the river at Bewdley were badly damaged by the ice, including the floating swimming baths, something not usually considered. However it wasn’t all negative news, as the Worcestershire Chronicle of 9th Feb 1895 reported people down the road in Droitwich were skating on the pond in Westwood Park for 3d.

    We widened our search to see what was said about other big freezes. Back in December 1892 the Severn was frozen in Worcester for the first time for many years, up to 4 inches thick in places. Due to the importance of the river to trade a tug went up and down trying to keep a channel open, but many canal barges were stuck. Skating took place on local ponds such as at Spetchley, Perdiswell and Boughton, including in the evening by moonlight, although some who tried to do this on the Severn at the bottom of Newport Street ended up falling through the ice, with a rather cold bath, although it wasn’t very deep at that point so were ok.

    Worcester Herald 27 Dec 1890

    Two years later came another big frost over Christmas. The Worcester Herald of 31 Dec 1892 reported

       The keen frosts on Saturday, Sunday and Monday gave quite a seasonable appearance to everything outdoors, and to the delight of those who are fond of skating, it was perfectly safe to indulge in the favourite pastime upon the various ponds in the vicinity, in some places on Sunday as well as Monday. There was a large company at Spetchley Park, as a still larger one at Perdiswell, where the pond had been partially drained for mud-clearing purposes, thus considerably minimising the danger in case of immersion. Northwick Pool had also been partially drained, to allow repairs being affected to a culvert crossing the road, and consequently there were comparatively few visitors. 

    It was also mentioned on the Facebook comments that there may be an inscription of the bridge commemorating the river freezing over. There is indeed one, and it relates to when it was so thick a sheep could be roasted on the ice. The full inscription reads:

      In memory of a Sheep roasted on the ice by Charles Lloyd.

      Labour in Vain. Feb 21 1855

    Checking the Worcestershire Chronicle for 28 Feb 1855 we came across this report

      SHEEP ROASTING ON SEVERN – Two sheep were roasted on the Severn on   Wednesday, having been purchased by subscription, the money being collected by Mr   Lloyd, of the Labour-in-Vain and the Dog and Wheel public house, and were distributed to   the poor. It is now 41 years since a sheep was roasted on the Severn at Bewdley. One of the animals was carved and eaten in a barge opposite Owner Lloyd’s public house, and the other was carried off to the Dog-Wheel in Dog-lane. The visitors, after satisfying themselves with the sight of the large fire burning on the ice, took themselves to skating, sliding, football etc. On walking beneath Telford’s beautiful arches we found that several ambitious persons had recently carved their names deeply upon the stone with the date 1855. Under the centre arch there is the following inscription, but it is wearing away from the influence of the water:- “In memory of the hard frost. Sheep roasted, Jan 22, 1814”

    If the river freezes over again we’ll keep our eyes open in case the roast on the ice is revived again!

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