7th February 1829.

The winter of 1683/4 is the worst ever recorded in England.

Frost Fair 1683/4 by Thomas Wyke.

Frost Fair on the Thames 1683/4 by Thomas Wyke.

It was Today in 1829 that ‘The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction’, reported an eye-witness account of the winter of 1683.(1)

‘On the 20th December 1688 (misprint for 1683), a very violent frost began which lasted to 6th of Feb, in so great extremity that pools were frozen 18 inches thick at least, and the Thames was so frozen that a great street from the Temple to Southwark was built with shops…’

The Thames froze to a depth of a foot which saw a Frost Fair on the ice with many stalls and displays which included the Chipperfield Family and their menagerie of animals. The family later moved into travelling circuses and theme parks up to the present day.

It was a winter described in R.D. Blackmore’s novel Lorna Doone: ‘All the world was flat with snow, all the air was thick with snow; more than this no man could see, for all the world was snowing’, detailing the ferocious snowstorm which provides a backdrop to the book.

After the blizzard came intense frost: ‘For when the sun burst forth at last upon the world of white, what he brought was neither warmth, nor cheer, nor hope of softening; only a clearer shaft of cold, from the violet depths of the sky’.

It went on, ‘That night…such a frost…the kettle by the fire froze, and the crock upon the hearth-cheeks; many men were killed, and cattle rigid in their head-ropes’.

With this description it comes as no surprise to note that Blackmore contributed articles to Meteorological Journals from his home in Teddington, near London, for many years.

Frost Fairs continued until the early 19thc and we have had severe winters notably those of 1947 and 1962/3, but nothing to compare with 1683/4.

(1) Vol 13. No 355. sold at 2d. February 7th 1829.

Ref: Williams, Robert. November 2013. 10 Worst Winters in History.

Ref: The Independent. Sunday, 17.11.2013. 10 Worst Winters.

Ref: wikipedia.org/thames_frost_fairs/Pic Image.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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