The ultimate London pea-souper on this week in 1952

Posted at 8:15 am, December 7, 2011 in News

Nelson's ColumnEveryone knows London’s nickname ‘The Big Smoke’, but this is not, as you might think, due to the industrial commerce we have been privy to since the beginning of time. The phrase was coined on this week in 1952 when London was engulfed by a pollution fog that didn’t lift for four days. The big smoke or great smog as it was known at the time, was caused by an anticyclone which created an atmospheric ceiling on the city trapping all things polluted, mainly caused by coal fires being burned in homes. The effects were severe, ‘it was as though you were blind’ said an observer at the time. People couldn’t hold out their arm and see their hand and it was reported that a Mallard duck flying across London smashed into Victoria station and crash-landed onto platform 6. Sporting events at Wembley were cancelled and you couldn’t even escape from it indoors, Sadler’s Wells theatre had to end a performance of ‘La Traviata’ after the first act because the auditorium had filled with fog. Transport ceased, (probably to avoid the ducks) except for the trusty London underground, and it’s effect on the population’s health was also the catalyst for the government’s ‘Clean Air Act’ in 1956 banning the use of coal for warming homes. Creepy Halloween weather does not a Merry Christmas make. Jemma de Blanche

Big Smoke

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