The Big Freeze of
It started snowing on Boxing Day in 1962 with a few flutter of snowflakes which, on their own, are a sight to behold. Their various patterns are beautiful and it is nice to watch them coming down from the sky but, when they land and get together the result can be disastrous.
With the continued blizzards and frost the build up of snow was horrendous and soon the village was completely cut off. It was the same to most of the villages in the UK. The winter of 1963 (also known as the Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters ever recorded in Great Britain. Record shows that in December 29th the Siberian easterly winds delivered 10 inches of drifting powdery snow and this continued in January when the Arctic winds brought another four inches of snow then in early February the Siberian cold returned with yet another four inches of the white stuff! Drifts reached 20 feet in some areas.
I came to live in the New Row in March 1960 and during the first couple of winters there was not much snow to worry about but that soon changed when it came down in December 1962 and kept snowing continuously until March the following year.
There were only two roads and an old tramway leading into the village then. One road began from Mill Tavern in Ton Road Cwmbran which carried on pass Coed Eva farm, Cefn Perthi farm, Green Court farm. The other was from Newport along Bettws lane pass Castell y Bwch Inn, the Village Hall and then joined the other road to continue pass the Cock o North farm, the Old School [now Henllys Nursery], Sunny Bank, Park Close, Dorallt Inn, Dorallt Fach farm [now Cwrt Henllys] Belle Vue Terrace, Four Houses, New Row/Old Row and end up at Mount Pleasant Chapel.
The tramway incline also started from Ton Road came pass Incline Cottages and continued behind Belle Vue Terrace, Four Houses over the bridge at the end of the Rows and up to the old Henllys Colliery.
You will see photographs and all the information about the tramway incline in Phil Jenkins' website HERE
Both these roads were very narrow so it did not take long before they were completely blocked with drifts of approx 15 feet and, with no access into the village, we soon became short of food, coal, and worst of all, no beer could be delivered to Dorallt Inn. Incidentally whilst the village was blocked the local men were able to stay there a bit longer and eventually drank the pub dry. That was the best part.
Before the road was blocked the coalman managed to come as far as the garages of the Four Houses and dropped its load and then we, the men of Old & New Rows, carried the sacks of coal and distributed them to those who did not have any. Perhaps it did help a bit that at that time there were coal miners living in the Rows and their generosity saw us through for a while. Never the less we still had to go and collect some fallen trees and take them to the farm behind New Row where they were cut with a huge circular saw and shared out.
At that time there was a shop in the village which was in a converted garage in Park Close, and the owner arranged for groceries to be conveyed by tractor from Jarrett’s shop in Wesley Street up as far as it could up the tramway and then had the men from the village formed a chain gang to carry the goods from the tractor to his shop. Walking down the incline after the thaw you would still find a few items that were dropped during the transit. Tins and packets of peas etc.
My car, a Morris Oxford 1952 saloon, was parked outside the front of my house. And with the built up of snow I never saw it until the thaw at the end of March and then discovered that the guttering ,which was cast iron, had come down with the weight of the snow ,snapped in half, and pierced through the roof and the bonnet of my car making it a write off. Incidentally this was the only car in New Row at that time.
Water was supplied to the village via a Pumping Station, which was near Cock o North Farm. It was powered by electricity so every time we had a power cut the water stopped and we had to call out the Water Board Inspector, who lived in St Mellons, to come and bleed the pump before we had water again. This happened very often during the years but it was worse in 1963 because he could not get access so we were out of water for days. In the Rows we had our own supply of water. It was a spout that came out of the wall at 5 Old Row and this kept us going for a while. Some of the neighbours use to have a wash and shave many times under this spout with a mirror hanging on a branch. It was a big blessing when the water was eventually gravity fed from Upper Cwmbran.
Duw times were hard.