The year the Thames froze for several months and became a huge ice skating rink

For nearly three and a half centuries, the UK has experienced winters so cold that they became known as the Great Frost.“It is considered the worst frost England has ever seen.

Exact temperatures were not recorded in the 17th century, but the records of Dr. John Downes, a physician at Christ's Hospital in London, reveal daily temperatures in the area of ​​- 4°C indoors and -12°C outside.

The lowest temperature reported was -30°C.

Many families froze and starved, food and fuel prices skyrocketed, and livestock and deer died where they stood.

Journalist Charles MacKay wrote: “It was so cold that the logs exploded with cracks as loud as rifle shots.”

Historian John Evelyn stated that “the roosters' feet froze before their prey.”

“We have seen soup accidentally spill while stirring and freeze on one side while the other side is still smoking,” one monk wrote.

World of wonders(an 1896 book purporting to be “a record of wonderful things in nature, science, and art”) said that “the frost was so severe that almost all the birds perished.”

The River Thames was covered in 30 centimeters of solid ice and remained frozen for two monthsWhich means that goods cannot be transported by ship.

Those who made their living from the river met a dispiriting end.

There was even speculation, printed in a newsprint now housed in the British Museum, that it was due to “the flogging of an insulted god.”

The author said, “I loudly ask for humility (…) so that a worse judgment does not fall upon us.”

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Exhibitions on ice

The Thames slowly began to freeze over. Since mid-November 1683, there has been a series of moderate frosts and light thaws. In mid-December the real frosts began.

The central stream continued to flow, albeit with increasingly larger ice deposits, until the tidal portion of the river froze.

It was soon discovered that the ice was solid enough to bear the weight: in the first week of January, a carriage and six horses crossed it for betting.

As temperatures dropped and the raw air attempted to strip the flesh from the bones, Londoners set up rows of stalls, creating an ice fair.

Ice fairs have been held on the Thames before, but never like this one. Previously, merchants settled on the ice and travelers had to cross it painfully.

The 1683 Exhibition was the first fair to become an attraction in its own right.

New opportunities

Leaflets and advertisements were printed on newsprint, promising illustrated maps and “alphabetical explanations of the most prominent figures curiously inscribed on a large sheet of paper.”

Finally, unemployed boatmen and sailors had the opportunity to earn money by guiding tourists onto the ice. Others outfitted their small boats with skis, converted them into skis, and They offered horseback riding along the frozen river.

In his memoirs, John Evelyn described the races, puppet shows and numerous food and drink stalls (a whole bull was roasted on ice near Whitehall) as “a Bacchanalian or Carnival triumph on the water”.

Soon souvenirs appeared, from engraved silver spoons to tickets printed on pistons pulled across the ice.

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A fellow historian, Narcissus Luttrell, recorded in his diary on February 4, 1684, that “there were three or four presses on the ice” when he visited.

He stressed that printing press owners made a lot of money, but the poorest “were miserable.”

Boatmen who engaged in ice transportation now had to compete with their land-based contemporaries, who could use the ice as an extension of their business.

A few river workers were able to eke out a living by pushing a boat on skis when horse-drawn hackney carriages were available.

The boatmen had planned to petition the court to prevent wagons from passing through the river, but on the day the petition was to be submitted, On February 5, the ice began to thaw.

There were more exhibitions in the following years, but none were large or long-lasting. The last one, in 1814, lasted only four days. Since then, the tidal stream of the Thames has never frozen.

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BBC-NEWS-SRC:, import date: 2024-02-03 09:22:03

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