Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Frost Fair on the Thames in London - 1683-84


When the ice on the Thames at London was thick enough in 1683-84, a frost fair was held.  In 1683-84, pedestrians, sleds, & coaches could cross the Thames on the ice for 7 weeks.  It was reported that "whole streets of Booths" sprung up which thousands of Londoners visited.


Frost fairs were already common elsewhere in northern Europe, such as the Netherlands.   During London's Great Frost of 1683–84, the Thames was completely frozen for 2 months, with the ice reaching a thickness of 11" at the site of the city.  When the ice was thick enough & lasted long enough, Londoners would take to the river for travel, trade & entertainment.  


The celebrated frost fair was described by John Evelyn (1620-1706) : Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, & from several other stairs too & fro, as in the streets; sleds, sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse & coach races, puppet plays & interludes, cooks, tipling & other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water. For sixpence, the printer Croom sold souvenir cards written with the customer's name, the date, & the fact that the card was printed on the Thames, & was making five pounds a day (ten times a laborer's weekly wage). King Charles II bought one. 


The cold weather was not only a cause for merriment, as John Evelyn (1620-1706) explained: "The fowls, fish & birds, & all our exotic plants & greens universally perishing. Many parks of deer were destroyed, & all sorts of fuel so dear that there were great contributions to keep the poor alive...London, by reason for the excessive coldness of the air hindering the ascent of the smoke, was so filled with the fuliginous steam of the sea-coal ...that one could hardly breath."


An eye-witness recorded the London frost of the 1680s: "On the 20th of December, 1683, a very violent frost began, which lasted to the 6th of February...the Thames was so frozen that a great street from the Temple to Southwark was built with shops, & all manner of things sold."  "Ale & Brandy & Gingerbread & Cakes" were sold, & a printer set up his shop."


John Evelyn (1620-1706) noted, "Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, & from several other stairs too & fro, as in the streets, sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse & coach races, puppet plays & interludes, cooks, tippling & other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water."


1683-4 An Exact and Lively Mapp or Representation of Booths and all the varieties of showes and humours upon the Ice on the River of Thames by London 
A The Temple Staires with People going upon the ice to Temple Street
B The Duke of Yorke's Coffee House
C The Tory Booth
D The Booth with a Phoenix on it & Insured as long as the foundation stand
E The Roast Beefe Booth
F The halfe way house
G The Beare garden Shire Booth
H The Musick Booth
I The Printing Booth
K The Lottery Booth
I The Horne Tavern Booth
M TheTemple Garden with Crowds of People looking over the wall
N The Boat drawne with a Hors
O The Drum Boat
P The Boat drawne upon wheeles
Q The Bull Baiting
R The Chair sliding in the Ring
S The Boyes Sliding
T The Nine Pinn Playing
V The sliding on skates
W The sledge drawing Coales from the other side of the Thames
X The Boyes climbing upon the tree in The Temple garden to     see the Bull Baiting
Y The Toye Shoppe
Z London Bridge 



1683-84 Thomas Wyke (also Wijck, Wijk, or Wyck)  (Dutch-born English artist) Frost Fair on the River Thames near the Temple.

True description of  BLANKET FAIR UPON THE RIVER THAMES in the time of the great Frost in the year of our Lord 1683.

How am I fill'd with wonder for to see 

A flooding river now a road to be ; 
Where ships & barges used to frequent,
Now may you see a booth of sutling tent; 
And those that used to ask " Where shall I l& ye ?" 
Now cry, " What lack ye, sir,?beer, ale, or brandy ? 
Here, here, walk in & you shall surely find, 
Your entertainment good, my usage kind." 
Booths they increased dayly more & more, 
People by thousands flocking from the shore, 
And in such heaps they thither did repair, 
As if they had been hasting to a fair, 
And such a fair I never yet came near, 
Where shop rents were so cheap & goods so dear; 
There might you have all kind of earthenware, 
You can scarce name a thing but what was there; 
There was to sell both French & Spanish wine, 
And yet, perhaps, a dishclout for a signe; 
In short, the like was never seen before, 
Where coaches run as if upon the shore. 
And men on horseback to & fro did ride 
Not minding either current or the tide. 
It was exceeding strange at first to see 
Both men & women so advent'rous be; 
And yet at last it grew so very common, 
Twas not admired, it seemed strange to no man. 
Then from the Temple there was built a street, 
Made old & young & all admire that see 't, 
Which street to Southwark reach'd; there you might see 
Wonders, if you did love variety. 
There was roast-beef & gammon to be sold, 
But at so dear a rate I dare be bold 
To say 'twas n'er sold so on the shore, 
Nor on the Thames in haste be any more. 
There were Dutch whimsies turning swiftly round, 
By which the owners cleared many a pound. 
And coal & corn was there in sledges draw'd, 
As if the Thames would never have been thaw'd. 
All kind of trades did to this market come, 
Hoping to get more profit than at home. 
And some, whose purses were a little swell'd, 
Would not have cared how long the frost had held. 
In several places there was nine pins play'd, 
And pidgeon-holes for to beget a trade.
Dancing & fidling too, there was great store, 
As if they had not been from off the shore. 
The art of printing there was to be seen, 
Which in no former age had ever been. 
And goldsmiths' shops well furnished with plate, 
But they must dearly pay for't that would have 't. 
And coffee-houses in great numbers were 
Scattered about in this cold freezing fair : 
There might you sit down by a charcoal fire, 
And for your money have your heart's desire. 
No, no, if you the world should wander through, 
No fair like this could pleasant seem to you. 
There was the baiting of the ugly bear, 
Which sport to witness hundreds did repair. 
And I believe, since the world's first creation, 
The like was never seen in this our nation. 
And foot-ball playing there was day by day ; 
Some broke their legs, & some their arms, they say; 
All striving to get credit, but some paid 
Most dearly for it, I am half afraid. 
Bull-baiting, likewise, there was known to be, 
Which on the Thames before none ever see. 
And never were poor dogs more bravely tost 
Than they were in this strange prodigious frost. 
Th' enraged bull perceiv'd his enemies, 
And how to guard himself could not devise ; 
But with his horns did toss them to & fro, 
As if their angry meaning he did know. 
Besides all this, a thing more strange & rare 
Than all the things were seen in Freezland fair: 
An ox was roasted whole, which thousands saw ; 
For 'twas not many days before the thaw. 
The like by no man in this present age, 
Was ever seen upon this icy stage. 
And this hard frost it did so long endure 
It pinch'd, & almost famish'd many poor. 
But one thing more I needs to you must tell 
The truth of which thousands do know full well, 
There was fox-hunting on this frozen river, 
Which may a memorandum be for ever. 
For I do think, since Adam drew his breath, 
No Fox was hunted on the ice to death. 
Thus have you heard what wonders there were seen, 
How heaven & earth the people walk'd between. 
And since the world at first had its creation, 
The like was never seen in this our nation. 
Yet was it hard & grievous to the poor, 
Who many hungry bellies did endure. 
Sad spectacles enough you might behold, 
Who felt the effect of this prodigious cold. 
But God who is most righteous, good, & just, 
Will them preserve who in him put their trust; 
And when their dangers greatest seem to be, 
Blest be his name, he then doth set them free. 
Then let us all, while we have time & breath, 
Be still prepared to meet with pale-faced Death. 
That when he comes we need not be afraid, 
Nor at his dart be frighted or dismay'd. 
If we on Jesus Christ wholly depend, 
He '11 prove to us an everlasting friend.

London: Printed by H. Brugis, in Green Arbor, Little Old Bayly, 1684.


 1683-84 Detail Thomas Wyke (also Wijck, Wijk, or Wyck)  (Dutch-born English artist) Frost Fair on the River Thames near the Temple

The Gentleman's Magazine, published during the later 1814 Frost Fair in for February 1814, a reflection by a respectable friend from a memorandum left by his great grandfather. "20th December 1683, a very violent frost began, which lasted till the 6th of February in soe great extremitie that the pooles were frozen eighteen inches thick, at least; & the Thames was so frozen that a great street from the Temple to Southwark was built into shops & all manner of things sold.  Hackney coaches plyed there as in the streets. There were also bull-baiting & a great many shows & tricks to be seen. This day the frost broke. In the morning I saw a coach & six horses driven from Whitehall almost to the bridge, yet by three o'clock this day, next to Southwark, the ice was gone so as boats did row to & fro, & the day after, all the frost was gone. On Candlemass-day (2nd February) I went to Croydon market & led my horse over the ice at the ferry at Lambeth. As I came back I led him from Lambeth upon the middle of the Thames to Whitefriars stairs, & soe led him up them ; & this day an ox was roasted whole over against Whitehall, & King Charles II, with the Queen, did eate a part of it. "


Upon this occasion king Charles the Second, his queen, & several other personages of the Royal Family visited the diversions upon the ice; & even had their names printed on the ice in conformity with their "humour" which Evelyn mentions as so prevalent.


There is still in existence one of the papers on which the king & his royal companions had their names printed.

his brother "James, Duke" (of York) afterwards James II;
"Katherine, Queen" the Infanta of Portugal;
"Mary, Dutchess", Mary D'Este, sister of the duke of Modena, & second wife of James; 
"Ann, Princesse," second daughter of the Duke of York, afterwards Queen Anne; 
& "George, Prince" of Denmark, her husband.

The king's visit is also noticed in a small poem printed on the river 

Thamasis's Advice to the Painter from her Frigid Zone,
OR, Wonders upon the Water.
Then draw the King, who on his Leads doth stay,
To see the Throng as on a Lord Mayor's day;
And thus unto his Nobles pleased to say; 
"With these Men on this Ice, I'd undertake
To cause the Turk all Europe to forsake:
An army of these Men, armed & compleat,
Would soon the Turk in Christendom defeat!"
To the Print-house go,
Where men the art of Printing soon do know,
Where for a Teaster, you may have your name
Printed, hereafter for to show the same:
And sure, in former Ages, ne'er was found

A Press to print where men so oft were droun'd!



 1683-4 Wonders of the Deep or The Most Excellent Description of the Frozen Thames

In the British Museum is a small volume, published for "D. Brown at the Black Swan & Bible without Temple Bar, & J. Waltho at the Black Lyon in Chancery Lane over against Lincoln's Inn, 1684."  It is entitled "An historical account of the late great frost, in which are discovered in several comical relations the various humours, loves, cheats, & intrigues of the town as the same were managed upon the river of Thames during that season." "This frost," says the author, " began about the 16th of December last, & so sharply set in, that in a fortnight's time, or thereabouts, the river of Thames, who, one might think, by the daily flux & reflux of her twice-returning tides in the space of twenty-four hours, & the native course of her own rapid streams, was secured against the force of the hardest weather ; yet this river, beyond the bridge of London upwards, was all frozen over; & people began to walk thereon; & booths were built in many places, where the poor watermen, whose boats were locked up, & could not work them for their usual livelihood, made a virtue of necessity, & therein retailed wine, brandy, beer, ale, & other liquors, which, for the novelty of the same, very few but were in a short time their customers; & their trades increasing, their booths began to be increased & enlarged for the reception of multitudes of people, who daily resorted thereunto, insomuch that in a short time road-ways were made from place to place, & without any fear or apprehension the same was trod by men, women, & children. Nor were the same only footpaths, but soon after, hackney-coaches began to ply upon the river, & found better custom than if they had continued in the streets, which were never, in the midst of business, half so crowded, so that the same became the only scene of pleasure in & about London. The fields were deserted, & the river full; & in Hillary term, which soon after ensued, it was as usual for the lawyers to take coach by water to Westminster as through the Strand ; & so public was the same, that in a short time it obtained the name of Frost Fair. 


"A whole street of booths, contiguous to each other, was built from the Temple Stairs to the barge-house in Southwark, which were inhabited by traders of all sorts, which usually frequent fairs & markets, as those who deal in earthenwares, brass, copper, tin, & iron, toys & trifles; & besides these, printers, bakers, cooks, butchers, barbers, coffee-men, & others, who were so frequented by the innumerable concourse of all degrees & qualities, that, by their own confession, they never met elsewhere the same advantages, every one being willing to say they did lay out such & such money on the river of Thames. 



"Nor was the trade only amongst such who were fixt in booths, but also all sorts of cries which usually are heard in London streets, were there; the hawkers with their news, the costermonger with his fruit, the wives with their oysters, pyes, & gingerbread, & such like. Nor was there any recreation in season which could not be found there, with more advantage than on land; such as foot-ball play, nine-pins, cudgells, bull & bear-baiting, & others which on the occasion was more ordinary, as sliding in skates, chairs, & other devices, such as were made of sailing-boats, chariots, & carrow-whimbles; so that at one view you might behold the thriving trader at his shop, the sportive at their recreations, the laborious with their burthens at their backs, & every one, with as little concern or fear as if they had trod the surface of the more centred element. And in all places smoking fires on the solid waters, roasting, boiling, & preparing food for the hungry & liquors for the thirsty; eating, drinking, & rejoicing, in as great crowds as Smithfield during Bartholomew Fair could ever boast." 

 1684 Abraham Danielsz. Hondius (Dutch-born English artist, 1625–1691) A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, London



1684 Detail Abraham Danielsz. Hondius (Dutch-born English artist, 1625–1691) A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, London

A full account of the severe weather of this year is preserved in the British Museum, printed for J. How, at the Coach & Horses, without Bishopsgate Street, 1684; & entitled "A STRANGE AND WONDERFUL RELATION OF MANY REMARKABLE DAMAGES, SUSTAINED BOTH AT SEA AND LAND, BY THE PRESENT UNPARALLELED FROST."  "This island & age wherein we live," says the author, "have experienced as many strange & prodigious observations of nature's effects, together with as many & various kinds of afflicting judgments from the correcting hand of an offended God, as any nation in preceding times can demonstrate, & rather seems the total sum of all, than a parallel of any; as, sword, plague, fire, &c. But whether the present unparalleled frost may be attributed to the effects of natural causes, or not rather to the scourging hand of an offended God, I shall not determine, though the consequences following seem to proclaim the latter, & loudly call for humility & amendment of life, lest a worse judgment fall upon us. But leaving this general caution & instruction, I shall present your view with such remarkable passages as certain knowledge, credible report, & spreading fame have brought to light. 


"From Deal, it has been observed that a vessel belonging to Lubeck (which her colours signify), riding in the Downs for several days, has been in great distress; which by their signs & weffs (the language of seamen in such cases) is understood by them as well as if they discoursed face to face; whereupon several yachts & other vessels have attempted to relieve them, but all industry ineffectual; the vessel being congealed & environed with a massy substance of ice; so that it is altogether inaccessible, & now no further attempts can be made for their relief, because the sea for above a mile from the shore is so hard frozen beyond our apprehensions to imagine or chronologies to parallel. 


"From Liverpool, in Lancashire, we have advice, that two vessels lying at anchor had their cables one night severed asunder by the sharpness of the ice, notwithstanding the industry of the distressed mariners, who are now drove from hope of succour. Though attempts have been made by some, beyond probability of their own safety, to relieve them, but in vain, whose fear is not so much for their want of provision as the danger of being bilged, (a sea term for breaking holes in the vessel), with the ponderous strokes of such bulky congealed cakes of ice, as the impetuousness of the unruly surges cast against them.  


"It has been also observed, that the ice has cut away most of the buoys or sea-marks, as well in the south as north channel, so that such as have weathered the distresses in harbours, & escaped dangers at home, by the frost, are, notwithstanding, incident to those dangerous wrecks of rocks & sands, & shunning Scylla may fall upon Charybdis. 


"It is also credibly attested that vast solid cakes of ice, of some miles in circuit, breaking away from the eastern countries of Flanders & Holland, &c. have been by the east & north-east winds driven upon the marine borders of Essex, Suffolk, & Norfolk, to their no small damage. 


"And it is also reported, that some skait-sliders upon one of those large icy plains, were unawares driven to sea, & arrived living (though almost perished with cold & hunger) upon the sea coast of Essex; but as to the certainty of this report I refer to the credit of succeeding intelligence, as also those wonderful damages upon the coast of Scotland relating of the loss of some shipping, & the lives of many ingenious & industrious navigators ; nor may those prodigious & lamentable damages seem strange, when in our own harbour, the river of Thames, several ships, both inward & outward bound, as well at Redrif as other adjacent places, have been broken to pieces, & sunk by the effects of this so unparalleled a frost. 


"It is needless to inform London (for whom principally this intelligence is collected), what unheard of rendezvous is daily kept upon the face of her navigable river; what long & spacious streets of booths & tents are builded ; what throngs of passengers, both horse & foot, do travel; what pyramids of provisions, baked, boiled, & roast; what deluges of wine, coffee, beer, ale, & brandy, for sale; what fleets of vessels sailing upon sledges; what troops of coaches, caravans, & waggons; what games & new invented sports & pastimes, bull- baiting, bear-baiting, &c.; together with shops for the vending of most sorts of manufactures & for working artificers, the account of which alone would require a volume to describe; & therefore omitting its description in particular, I must leave it with amazement & admiration in general. 


"But to speak of the land, where the damage is no less considerable than at sea, there being such an overwhelming snow in Scotland, that man & beast, though not equally, are too sensible of the affliction. Also in England, in several places, through the extraordinary violence of the present frost, no water can be had for cattle in many miles, which general complaints will need no other confirmation than from the tongues of the cattle themselves, who with pity have been observed to lick the ice to abate their thirst, for want of their fill of refreshing water. 



"From a credible person in France to a gentleman of worth in London by letter, before the sea was blocked up by this extreme frost, mention is made of the severe effects produced by the extremity of cold as well of weather as of charity, attesting by modest computation that no less than sixty persons have lately died upon the road between Paris & Calais; & doubtless many in the city of London, through the same extremes, have perished in the same calamity, of which a weaver in the parish of St. Giles's Cripplegate was one, & though I take no notice of others whose wants call upon the Diveses of this age to consider the condition of the Lazaruses in the streets." 

 1684 Detail Abraham Danielsz. Hondius (Dutch-born English artist, 1625–1691) A Frost Fair on the Thames at Temple Stairs, London

Behold the Wonder of this present Age,

A Famous RIVER now become a Stage.
Question not what I now declare to you,
The Thames is now both Fair and Market too.
And many Thousands daily do resort
There to behold the Pastime and the Sport.
Early and late, used by young and old
And valu'd not the fierceness of the cold
And did not think of that Almighty Hand
Who made the Waters bare, like to the Land:
Thousands and Thousand to the River flocks
Where mighty flakes of Ice do lye like Rocks.
There may you see the Coaches swiftly run,
As if beneath the ice were Waters none.
And sholes of People every where there be
Just like to Herrings in the brackish Sea;
And there the quaking Water-men will stand ye,
Kind Master, drink you beer, or Ale, or Brandy:
Walk in kind Sir, this Booth it is the chief,
We'l entertain you with a slice of Beef,
And what you please to Eat or Drink, 'tis here
No Booth, like mine, affords such dainty cheer.
Another crys, Here Master, they but scoff ye,
Here is a Dish of famous new-made Coffee.
And, some do say, a giddy senseless Ass
May on the THAMES be furnished with a Lass.
But to be short, such Wonders there are seen,
That in this Age before hath never been.
Before the Temple there a Street is made,
And there is one almost of every Trade:
There may you also this hard Frosty Winter,
See on the Rocky Ice a Working - PRINTER,
Who hopes by his own Art to reap some gain,
Which he perchance does think he may obtain.
Here is also a Lottery and Musick too,
Yea, a cheating, drunken, leud and debauch'd crew.
Hot Codlins, Pancakes, Duck, Goose, and Sack,
Rabit, Capon, Hen, Turkey, and a wooden Jack.

In this same street before the Temple made,

There seems to be a brisk and lively Trade:
Where e'ry Booth hath such a cunning Sign,
As seldome hath been seen in former time;
The Flying Fish-pot is one of the same,
The Whip and Egg-shell, and the Broom by name:
And there if you have Money for to spend,
Each cunning Snap will seem to be your Friend.
There you may see small Vessels under Sail,
All's one to them, with or against the Gale,
And as they pass they little Guns do fire,
Which seedeth some, and puffs them with desire
To sail therein, and when their money's gone,
'Tis right, they cry, the Thames to come upon.
There on a Sign you may most plainly see't,
Here's the first Tavern built in Freezeland-street:
There is Bull-baiting and Bear-baiting too,
That no man living yet e're found so true;
And Foot-Ball play is there so common grown,
That on the Thames before was never known;
Coals being dear, are carry'd on Mens backs,
And some on Sledges there are drawn in Sacks;
Men do on Horse-back ride from shore to shore,
Which formerly in Boats were wafted o're:
Poor people hard shifts make for livelihoods,
And happy are if they can sell their Goods;
What you can buy for Three-pence on the shore,
Will cost you Four-pence on the Thames, or more.
Now let me come to things more strange, yet true,
And question not what I declare to you;
There Roasted was a great and well-fed Oxe,
And there, with Dogs, Hunted the cunning Fox;
Dancing o'th' Ropes, and Puppit-plays likewise,
The like before ne'r seen beneath the Skies;
All stand admir'd, and very well they may.
To see such pastimes, and such sorts of play.
Besides the things I nam'd to you before,
There other Toys and Baubles are great store;

There may you feast your wandring eyes enough,

There may you buy a Box to hold your Snuff:
No Fair nor Market underneath the Skies
That can afford you more Varieties;
There may you see some hundreds slide in Skeets,
And beaten paths like to the City Streets.
There were Dutch Whimsies turned swiftly round,
Faster than Horses run on level Ground:
The like to this I now to you do tell,
No former Age could ever parallel;
There's all that can supply most curious minds,
With such Varieties of cunning Signs,
That I do think no Man doth understand,
Such merry Fancies ne'r were on the Land;
There is such Whimsies on the Frozen Ice,
Makes some believe the Thames a Paradice.
And though these sights be to our admiration,
Yet our sins, our sins, do call for lamentation.
Though such unusual Frosts to us are strange,
Perhaps it may predict some greater Change.
And some do fear may a fore-runner be 
Of an approaching sad Mortality:
But why should we to such belief incline?
There's none that knows but the blest pow'r divine
And whatso'ere is from Jehovah sent,
Poor Sinners ought therewith to be content;
If dreadful, then to fall upon the knee,
And beg remission of the DEITY:
But if beyond our thoughts he sends us store,
With all our hearts let's thankful be therefore.
Now let us all in Great Jehovah trust,
Who doth preserve the Righteous and the Just;
And eke conclude Sin is the cause of all
The heavy Judgements that on us do fall:
And call to mind, fond Man, thy time mispent,
Fall on thy knees, and heartily Repent,
Then will thy Saviour pitty take on thee,
And thou shalt live to all Eternity.       Finis
Printed by M.Haly, and J.Millet, and sold by Robert Waltor, at the Globe on the North-side of St.Pauls-Church, near that end towards Ludgate;  Where you may have all sorts and sizes of Maps, Coppy-Books, and Prints, not only English, but Italian, French, and Dutch. And by John Seller in the West-side of the Royal Exchange. 1684.


 1683-84 God's Works is the World's Wonder.  THIS LIVELY PRINT of London’s Frost Fair was published in February 1684, & sold by Robert Walton & John Seller for three pence.

True description of BLANKET FAIR UPON THE RIVER THAMES in the time of the great Frost in the year of our Lord 1683.
How am I fill'd with wonder for to see 
A flooding river now a road to be ; 
Where ships and barges used to frequent,
Now may you see a booth of sutling tent; 
And those that used to ask " Where shall I land ye ?" 
Now cry, " What lack ye, sir,—beer, ale, or brandy ? 
Here, here, walk in and you shall surely find, 
Your entertainment good, my usage kind." 
Booths they increased dayly more and more, 
People by thousands flocking from the shore, 
And in such heaps they thither did repair, 
As if they had been hasting to a fair, 
And such a fair I never yet came near, 
Where shop rents were so cheap and goods so dear; 
There might you have all kind of earthenware, 
You can scarce name a thing but what was there; 
There was to sell both French and Spanish wine, 
And yet, perhaps, a dishclout for a signe; 
In short, the like was never seen before, 
Where coaches run as if upon the shore. 
And men on horseback to and fro did ride 
Not minding either current or the tide. 
It was exceeding strange at first to see 
Both men and women so advent'rous be; 
And yet at last it grew so very common, 
Twas not admired, it seemed strange to no man. 
Then from the Temple there was built a street, 
Made old and young and all admire that see 't, 
Which street to Southwark reach'd; there you might see 
Wonders, if you did love variety. 
There was roast-beef and gammon to be sold, 
But at so dear a rate I dare be bold 
To say 'twas n'er sold so on the shore, 
Nor on the Thames in haste be any more. 
There were Dutch whimsies turning swiftly round, 
By which the owners cleared many a pound. 
And coal and corn was there in sledges draw'd, 
As if the Thames would never have been thaw'd. 
All kind of trades did to this market come, 
Hoping to get more profit than at home. 
And some, whose purses were a little swell'd, 
Would not have cared how long the frost had held. 
In several places there was nine pins play'd, 
And pidgeon-holes for to beget a trade.
Dancing and fidling too, there was great store, 
As if they had not been from off the shore. 
The art of printing there was to be seen, 
Which in no former age had ever been. 
And goldsmiths' shops well furnished with plate, 
But they must dearly pay for't that would have 't. 
And coffee-houses in great numbers were 
Scattered about in this cold freezing fair : 
There might you sit down by a charcoal fire, 
And for your money have your heart's desire. 
No, no, if you the world should wander through, 
No fair like this could pleasant seem to you. 
There was the baiting of the ugly bear, 
Which sport to witness hundreds did repair. 
And I believe, since the world's first creation, 
The like was never seen in this our nation. 
And foot-ball playing there was day by day ; 
Some broke their legs, and some their arms, they say; 
All striving to get credit, but some paid 
Most dearly for it, I am half afraid. 
Bull-baiting, likewise, there was known to be, 
Which on the Thames before none ever see. 
And never were poor dogs more bravely tost 
Than they were in this strange prodigious frost. 
Th' enraged bull perceiv'd his enemies, 
And how to guard himself could not devise ; 
But with his horns did toss them to and fro, 
As if their angry meaning he did know. 
Besides all this, a thing more strange and rare 
Than all the things were seen in Freezland fair: 
An ox was roasted whole, which thousands saw ; 
For 'twas not many days before the thaw. 
The like by no man in this present age, 
Was ever seen upon this icy stage. 
And this hard frost it did so long endure 
It pinch'd, and almost famish'd many poor. 
But one thing more I needs to you must tell 
The truth of which thousands do know full well, 
There was fox-hunting on this frozen river, 
Which may a memorandum be for ever. 
For I do think, since Adam drew his breath, 
No Fox was hunted on the ice to death. 
Thus have you heard what wonders there were seen, 
How heaven and earth the people walk'd between. 
And since the world at first had its creation, 
The like was never seen in this our nation. 
Yet was it hard and grievous to the poor, 
Who many hungry bellies did endure. 
Sad spectacles enough you might behold, 
Who felt the effect of this prodigious cold. 
But God who is most righteous, good, and just, 
Will them preserve who in him put their trust; 
And when their dangers greatest seem to be, 
Blest be his name, he then doth set them free. 
Then let us all, while we have time and breath, 
Be still prepared to meet with pale-faced Death. 
That when he comes we need not be afraid, 
Nor at his dart be frighted or dismay'd. 
If we on Jesus Christ wholly depend, 
He '11 prove to us an everlasting friend.
London: Printed by H. Brugis, in Green Arbor, Little Old Bayly, 1684.


 1685 Frost Fair on the Thames, with Old London Bridge in the distance. Date, ca. 1685

Another print documents “the Wonder of this present Age”: “a Prodigious FROST, which began about the beginning of Decemb. 1683. & continued till the Fourth Day of February following.” The frost was so severe that the River Thames froze over, such that Men & Beasts, Coaches & Carts, went as frequently thereon, as Boats were wont to pass before. There was also a Street of Booths built from the Temple to Southwark, where were Sold all sorts of Goods imaginable, namely, Cloaths, Plate, Earthen Ware, Meat, Drink, Brandy, Tobacco, & a Hundred sorts of other Commodities not here inserted.


 1683-4 Frost Fair Great Britain's Wonder - London's Admiration.  Being a True Representation of a Prodigious FROST, which began about the beginning of Decemb. 1683. & continued till the Fourth Day of February following. And held on with such violence that Men & Beasts, Coaches & Carts, went as frequently thereon, as Boats were wont to pass before. There was also a Street of Booths built from the Temple to Southwark, where were Sold all sorts of Goods imaginable, namely, Cloaths, Plate, Earthen Ware, Meat, Drink, Brandy, Tobacco, & a Hundred sorts of other Commodities not here inserted. It being the wonder of the age, & a great consternation to all the spectators.



 1683-4 A Map of the River Thames Merrily Cold Blanket Fair as it Sits Frozen in the Memorable Year 1684

In January the frost was very severe, & the Thames was frozen, but unsafe to venture upon. When eventually the ice melted there was great relief among those who worked on the Thames.

The Watermen' Song upon the Thaw -


Come ye merry men all

Of Watermen's Hall
Let's hoist our boats & careen;
The Thames it does melt,
And the coalde is scarce felt,
Not an icicle's now to be seen.

Let's pull down each scull 

That hung up in hall, 
Like weapon so rusty, & row; 
Let's cheerly fall to 't; 
If we have not forgot; 
For the frost is over now.

Let's set up our masts 

That stood like posts, 
As props to our tents on the Thames; 
Or signe-posts made 
With an ancient display'd, 
While our oars were the great cross-beams. 

Let's hoist up our sail 

That was a side wall, 
To hide Doll when with brandy she 'd glow ; 
Or a roof compos'd 
You might else have been froz'd, 
Though the frost be over now. 

We'll no longer stand 

With a tapster's hand, 
With the spigot for an oar, 
Crying out our trade is cold, 
Here 's four gallons in hold, 
I have drawn out but half my store:

Prithee, lads, stand to 't,

And help pump it out, 
That the vessel once more may flow ;
Then come again 
With a thirsty train ; 
But the frost is over now.

Let's tune our throats

To our usual notes,
Of Twitnam, Richmond, hey ! 
Sir, sculler, sir? Oars, sir? 
Loudly roar, sir; 
Here's Dick, sir, you won't pass him by.

Instead of good ale, 

And brandy wine stale, 
Let's cry out, Westward, hoe I 
Shall we Mortlack make, 
Or for Brandford tack ? 
For the frost is over now.

The town too 'as gone 

That they waited on, 
And the people flock'd to see,
It fled in one night 
Quite out of our sight, 
As the castles enchanted that be; 

While country squire,

Whom journey might tire,
With wat'ry eyes cannot view 
The street, a long way 
That he came to survey ;
For the frost is over now. 

Not a horn can he buy, 

Nor an earthenware toy,
His wife or his children to cheer; 
Since Isis does turn 
Her watery urn, 
All the pitchers are march'd off here ; 

Nay, on the Thames wide,

There remains not a slide 
On which he may whisk to & fro ;
He returns as he came, 
To his country dame; 
For the frost is over now. 

Meantime, if ought

Of honour you 've got,
Let the printers have their due,
Who printed your names 
On the river Thames, 
While their hands with the cold look'd blue ; 

There's mine, there's thine, 

Will for ages shine, 
Now the Thames aloft does flow; 
Then let's gang hence, 
To our boats commence, 
For the frost is over now.


No comments:

Post a Comment