Frost Fairs on the River Thames

Guildhall Library blog

With winter upon us, it is interesting to ponder winters past in London. The river Thames froze solid numerous times between 1309 and 1814. We have evidence in contemporary paintings and prints of at least five occasions, when a sustained period of cold weather made it possible to hold Frost Fairs on the river: 1683, 1715, 1739, 1789, and 1814. All the Frost Fairs took place upstream of Old London Bridge, because the bridge impeded the flow of the river, and therefore precipitated freezing.

The Great Frost of 1683-84 began at the start of December, continuing over Christmas, and lasted until the 4th of February 1684. The fair offered plenty of attractions including a whole ox roasted on the ice, stilt walking, hunting a fox, and even a printing booth to provide people with a permanent souvenir of their visit to the fair. King Charles II’s visit was recorded with…

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