Monday, January 11, 2010

Frost fairs on the Thames

The UK's extremely cold weather this winter is not a first. On this day in 1783 London's River Thames froze over and a 'Frost Fair' was held on the frozen river. It has been said that 3,000,000 people attended. Frost fairs, like the unusual weather patterns that allowed them, were a rare occurrence in London, but history records the few times they happened. 

Between 1550 and 1850, Britons endured what may be called the 'Little Ice Age', as the world was then about one degree cooler than the average for the 20th Century. The River Thames froze over 14 times in this period, becoming the location for Frost Fair festivities. Fairs were held in 1564, 1608, 1634, 1715, 1739, and 1789. In 1715 - '16, the Thames froze so solid that a spring tide lifted the ice 13 feet (about 4 metres) without interrupting the fair.

The Public Advertiser declared on January 5, 1789: "This booth to let, the present possessor of the premises is Mr Frost. His affairs, however, not being on a permanent footing, a dissolution or bankruptcy may soon be expected and a final settlement of the whole entrusted to Mr Thaw." ...

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