The Thames Frost Fairs

Who would of ever thought that the river Thames would be frozen solid, well it did freeze, and quite frequently, and the citizens of London made the most of it. 

Thames Frost Fair 1683-1684, by Thomas Wyke

Thames Frost Fair 1683-1684, by Thomas Wyke

Between 1600 and 1814 the river Thames in London would freeze solid most winters, sometimes for as long as two months, which led Londoners to create the Thames Frost Fairs.  The fairs weren't held every year, on seven occasions in history a major fair was held, however there were numerous smaller fairs held over that time.

By the time the first fair came around in 1608, once the river was solid enough, people began setting up camps, with many pop up pubs making an appearance, horse and coach races were taking place, as well as many trades setting up their stalls.

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell

Kings and Queens often made appearances at the fairs, even King Henry VIII traveled by sleigh across the river when travelling from Central London to Greenwich, and Elizabeth I often took walks along the river.

The last frost fair took place in 1814 in the middle of Thames, with four days of festivities and ended up being the biggest of them all with thousands in attendance each day. The festivities included many pop up pubs, and printing presses, and even an elephant was led across the river on parade.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing though, such as the fair of 1739, where some of the ice gave way and swallowed up people, camps and businesses.