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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Thawing out


It’s cheering to see the snow disappearing at last, even though we have got a rainy day here in Cheshire. We should count our blessings, however; winters were much more severe in the past. Frost fairs were held on the Thames when it froze over, most notably in the winters of 1684 (when a printing press was erected on the ice), 1715-6, 1740, 1788-9, and 1814. There were tents selling food and drink, games of skittles were held, and there were even swings and merry-go-rounds on the ice. A sudden thaw set in during the 1814 frost fair, and some stallholders, keen to enjoy profits while they lasted, stayed on the ice far longer than was safe. Tents and merry-go-rounds fell into the icy water; three men were killed. Frost fairs became a distant memory as winters grew warmer and the currents in the Thames changed over time.

Image: Fair on the Thames, 1716. W. & R. Chambers’s Book of Days, 1864.

2 comments:

janeaustensworld said...

I love this Frost Fair image and haven't run across it before. - Vic

Sue Wilkes said...

It is a great image - if you come across a copy of the Book of Days, snap it up, as it has some lovely engravings in it.