The Last Frost Fair – Redux

With all the extreme winter weather we are experiencing (the Washington DC area is expecting sleet and rain today, better than snow), I thought I’d repost a blog I did in 2007 about the last frost fair held on the Thames for a few days in February, 1814.

Here it is:

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.

The first recorded frost fair was held in 1608, but the one I wanted to know about was the frost fair of 1814, The Last Frost Fair.

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?
What kind of extreme weather have you been having?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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4 Responses to The Last Frost Fair – Redux

  1. The Frost Fair by Elizabeth Mansfield is the only book I’ve read with it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about it. However, it’s in my collection, so now I’m going to have to unearth it and read it again. :-) No extreme weather here.

  2. Elena Greene says:

    I’m just having an extreme cold right now, my nose is quite a vulgar shade of red. But tomorrow we are due for 10-14 inches of snow. I’m glad I have daughters who can shovel.

  3. While y’all have been suffering severe cold up there in the US, in Australia, we’ve been having some rather nasty heat waves (days of over 110F).

    It’s Bushfire Season. Not a week goes by that somewhere, a towering mare’s tail of bushfire smoke rises up against our too-blue skies.

  4. Pingback: Random Thoughts » Risky Regencies

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