From about the mid 14th century to the early 19th century (the little ice age), the Thames sometimes froze solid in the winter and fairs were held on its ice. The climate was not the only reason the river turned to ice. The Thames was shallower then and the old London Bridge was built in a manner that slowed the flow of water and fostered freezing.
Joy Freeman wrote one of my favorite old Regencies titled The Last Frost Fair, which is where I first heard of the event. It seemed perfect to use in my new story and I knew just where to look for more information–The Annual Register of 1814
I have all the Annual Registers from 1810 to 1820. The Annual Registers are a little like almanacs with all the parliamentary issues, births, deaths, marriages of important people, poetry, and the most interesting news stories from the year. The Annual Register for 1814 is on google books so you can read it for yourself. The account of the fair begins on page 11 of the Chronicles, beginning on February 1 and ending February 7.
Another book with a good description of the Frost Fair is John Ashton’s Social England under the Regency, also on googlebooks.
Ashton describes the frolickers playing skittles, drinking in tents “with females,” dancing reels, more sedate coffee-drinking, and gaming booths. Souvenir cards were printed on printing presses set up on the ice. The Annual Register said the carousing went on until the ice began to break up and then people went scrambling to safety. There was some loss of life and there never again was a freezing of the river sufficient to hold a frost fair.
Have you read any books that show the Last Frost Fair?
Did you read Joy Freeman’s book and what did you think of it?
Are you curious as to what my new book is about? (cuz I’m still not telling)
Come visit my website. I have a new contest this month, continuing my countdown to The Vanishing Viscountess in January.