27th December 1813. Final Frost Fair.
Ice is said to be ‘rairding’ when it is cracking for some cause, and in Scotland lochs are heard to ‘rair’ of their own accord.(1)
In the winter of 1813, ‘the frost returned Today on the 27th and continued until the 5th of February 1814. There was a grand mall or walk from Blackfriar’s Bridge to London Bridge, named the City Road and lined on both sides with booths of all descriptions’.
‘There was bear-baiting, puppet shows, wild beasts, pig and sheep roasting. Several printing presses were set up [for souvenir cards], and a rouge et noir (gambling) tables, skittles and concerts of rough music. There were carousing booths filled with merry parties, some dancing to the sound of the fiddle, some sitting round blazing fires, smoking and drinking’.
‘The frost ran from Putney Bridge down to Redriff and was one continued scene of jollity during the seven weeks saturnalia’.
Between 1408 and 1814 there were twenty-four winters when the Thames is recorded as completely frozen. In 1283 five arches of the old London Bridge were broken by ice, in what must have been a severe winter.
After the widening of London Bridge and the end of the ‘Little Ice-Age’, Frost Fairs which had been an intermittent feature since the 13thc ceased, though the Thames continued to freeze in the 19thc, causing unemployment and pauperism, for those whose employment depended on the river.
One thing is certain the British climate never fails to surprise.
(1) John Mactaggart’s Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia 1824.
Ref: Edward Fillingham King’s, Ten Thousand Wonderful Things c1853.
Ref: darcytodionysus.com/Pic Image from an 1814 drawing in the collection of Mr. Gardner.