27th December 1836 - severe snow on Salisbury Plain

THE DEVONPORT MAIL-COACH FORCING ITS WAY THROUGH A SNOWDRIFT NEAR AMESBURY DEC 27 1836On 27th December 1836 heavy snow fell across the country, and was particularly bad on Salisbury Plain.

This account of disruption to the mail services was written in about 1884[1]

The Devonport mail arrived at half-past eleven o’clock. The guard, who had travelled with it from Ilminster, a distance of 140 miles, states that journey to have been a most trying one to both men and cattle. The storm commenced when they reached Wincanton, and never afterwards ceased. The wind blew fresh, and the snow and sleet in crossing Salisbury Plain were driving into their faces so as almost to blind them. Between Andover and Whitchurch the mail was stuck fast in a snowdrift, and the horses, in attempting to get out, were nearly buried. The coachman got down, and almost disappeared in the drift upon which he alighted. Fortunately, at this juncture, a waggon with four horses came up, and by unyoking these from the waggon and attaching them to the mail, it was got out of the hollow in which it was sunk.”

These are some of the reports, written at the time, of the disorganisation of the mail-service in consequence of the snowstorm. Some slight idea of the magnitude of the drifts may be obtained from one or two additional particulars. The mail proceeding from Exeter for London was five times buried in the snow, and had to be dug out. [2]


[1] The book I’ve extracted this from is, incidentally, dedicated to Salisbury’s MP Henry Fawcett, whose statue is in Salisbury Market Place. Fawcett was Postmaster-General

[2] The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Royal Mail - Its Curiosities and Romances, by James Wilson Hyde.