Winter of the Past

As the weather is getting colder and the nights darker, this month’s chosen object reflects some of Exeter’s winter history.

Postcard showing the frozen River Exe (1917)

This postcard in the museum’s collection is a photographic record of the River Exe frozen solid in February 1917. The ice was so thick that it was claimed that over 100 people could stand on it at one time. In this particular image, it’s shown that men, women and children all attempted to have a go on the ice. It’s also visible in the image that people used wooden planks to get onto thicker areas of the ice, with some beams being laid flat on the ice and some coming from the angle of the side of the river. It must’ve been a way to have fun during a difficult time, in the context of war.

It’s interesting to get a glimpse of what winter looked like over 100 years ago – from the clothes of the people to the landscape of the river and the weather they experienced at that time.

Certainly a spectacle, but it wasn’t uncommon for temperatures to reach below zero and the river to freeze at this time of year. In December of 1916 frozen roads and ponds were reported in the Exeter District with several seagoing ships being frozen at the entrance to Exeter Canal.

Acquired by the museum in 1972

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