Login Register

Weather of 1891: far worse than the current conditions

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: January 02, 2014

  • The London-Penzance express off the line near Camborne. courtesy of the Cornish Studies Library, Redruth

Comments (2)

THE severe weather that hit the county over Christmas, disrupting travel plans and cutting power lines, was nothing new for Cornwall.

More than 100 years ago, in 1890-91, another much worse spell of weather hit the region, bringing freezing temperatures and howling winds.

That Christmas also brought its share of problems, but there was worse to come, and in March the 'Great Blizzard of 1891' saw Cornwall completely cut off, with 28 ships lost and many deaths on both sea and land.

In his diary of George Spratt, assistant superintendent of the Porthcurno Telegraph Station, noted: "Unprecedented storm of sleet and snow from the West in late afternoon. Very cold."

March 10: "Heavy snowstorm (blizzard) continues: all our land lines down in many places – Starkey and Allen walked into Penzance: with bundle of telegrams. Some anxiety felt about their safety – falling snow from roof wrecked our conservatory. One snow drift at Bodellan some 20 feet deep, and our front door and porch snowed up in morning."

March 11: "Great depth of snow from the storm: all lines down and roads impassable – railway communication stopped and mails ceased – on line all day (snowfall having ceased) trying to get some of the lines into shape, but not much success."

March 12: "Snowstorm recommenced and had to suspend work on lines at midday in consequence – Adson of WU [Western Union] walked out on snow shoes in forenoon. Starkey returned – hear the weather has been very general in South of England – no railway communication above Plymouth and only a restricted service below."

March 13: "the storm has been the worst on record – still snowing and sleeting but we managed to start some work on the land lines."

At a time with no internet and more rudimentary transport links, bad weather in 1891 had even more serious consequences than today.

Did you manage to get home this Christmas? Were you on a train to Penzance? Tell us at cornishman@c-dm.co.uk

Read more from The Cornishman

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters


  • Flatpack  |  January 03 2014, 10:57AM

    Interesting comments by DipStick, and of course completely correct to say the extreme weather is not all down to man. After all, we know our planet has encountered many ice ages, and as of yet we still do not know what triggers this cycle, but we do know that previous ice ages had nothing to do with man. However the fear is that we are accelerating this cycle, we are now able to measure the content of our global environment (past and present), and the increase of CO2 since the start of the industrial revolution is extreme and indisputable. Coincidentally or not we are also seeing the greatest deterioration of the ice caps ever recorded. I remember 30 years ago when Global Warming was considered to be a dubious theory, California was the only State that took it seriously, and certainly politicians were the scientists greatest adversary. The theory of global warming came from eminent scientists observing what is really happening around us, and the vast number of politicians wanted nothing to do with anything that upset the current fossil fueled economy. Politicians have only jumped on the bandwagon as the evidence has become more and more convincing, however I'm sure DipStick is correct to infer that the opportunities to profit from it have not been ignored by our overlords, but this is quite the reverse to 30 years ago. Whilst the impact man is making regarding global warming may be a matter for debate, the stakes don't get much higher. Lets say we all go green and clean, If the scientists are wrong what have we lost? Lets say we ignore all the warnings but the scientists prove to be correct, the consequences are beyond our imagination.

  • DipStick  |  January 02 2014, 1:12PM

    "More than 100 years ago, in 1890-91, another much worse spell of weather hit the region, bringing freezing temperatures and howling winds.". But ... but ... but ... we've been told that it's man and his CO2 emmissions that's causing all the bad weather! So what could have been the reason 100 years ago? Oh, maybe it's not all down to man after alll ..... nah. Our politicians wouldn't lie to us in order to grab power and our money would they? 'course they wouldn't ...... DS

    |   2