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Merry Christmas & a happy new year


Frost Fairs Until 1831 the Thames froze in hard winters, and ice fairs were

11 inches for 91 days, and this is the fair illustrated in the painting featured

set up on the river by the water-men who were otherwise deprived of their

on this card. People from all backgrounds mingled on the ice. Booths

livelihood. After the old London Bridge was demolished in 1831 the flow of

were set up serving wines, spirits and beer, and fires were lit on hearths

water was no longer restricted, the freezing ceased and the fairs could

to roast pigs, toast bread and heat sack (Spanish wine). There was music

no longer take place. The earliest fair is recorded in 1309, and thereafter

and dancing, bowling, bear-baiting and cock-fighting, and also petty crime in

impromptu fairs were established whenever the water

the form of brawls fired by the alcohol, pick-pockets,

froze. Sometimes they lasted for only a few days, but

cheats, cut-purses and courtesans. The 1683-4 Fair

between 1564 and 1813 there were eight major Frost

attracted thousands of people and included football

Fairs which went on for much longer. In the ‘Great Frost’

matches and fox hunting.

of 1683-4 the Thames was frozen over to a depth of

With thanks to Jennifer Anning.

The image: Frost Fair on the Thames, with Old London Bridge in the Distance, painting formerly attributed to Jan Wyck (1640-1700), c.1685 by English School, (seventeenth century). © Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, USA


Christmas card 2005