Today marks 200 years since the end of the final frost fair on the River Thames.
To the modern observer, it is a scene from London’s history that is difficult to comprehend. For just under one week, from 1 February 1814 until 5 February 1814, the River Thames, the artery of the city, froze completely solid between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. 200 years ago this week, Londoners of all backgrounds took to the ice to revel in the event.
Imagine a travelling carnival and a street market rolled into one. Coffee houses, taverns and souvenir stalls formed improvised streets across the frozen Thames, with entertainments from skittles to swings ranged all around!
The 1814 fair was the last of its kind, but it was not the first. Between 1309 and 1814, the Thames froze at least 23 times and on five of these occasions, the freeze was extensive enough to support the weight of festivities, and a frost fair was born.