The Big Chill

Riding a carriage over the frozen Serpentine in 1826. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Riding a carriage over the frozen Serpentine in 1826. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

The recent cold snap in London brings to mind legendary winters of the past, when the mighty and ancient River Thames froze completely and became a venue for great Frost Fairs. The last fair was held in 1814, but do the increasingly harsh winters of recent years suggest such an occurrence may once again be possible?

Frosts, freezes and fairs by Ian CurrieThe Archives Centre’s Book of the Month, Ian Currie’s Frosts, Freezes and Fairs profiles a thousand years of great freezes and describes in fascinating detail the excitement and the hardship that these rigorous times bestowed upon the Capital.

The Thames Frost Fair of 1814. The frozen surface became very treacherous as it began to melt - this picture shows a man falling through a thin patch of ice. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

The Thames Frost Fair of 1814. The frozen surface became very treacherous as it began to melt – this picture shows a man falling through a thin patch of ice. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

You can also find more about historic winters in Westminster through our new online project, A Date with History. Images and stories are posted daily, opening up the collections of Westminster City Archives to create a vibrant, virtual journey through Westminster’s past. Discover the story of a daring exploit to ride a carriage across the frozen Serpentine, admire fashionable ski-wear available in the shops of 1920s London, and find out how Londoners made the most of the harsh winters of yesteryear.

[Michelle]

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