The Danger of a Frost Fair Thaw

Frost FairChristmas History 37.  In the last Christmas History article we looked at the final ever frost fair on the River Thames, in February 1814.  But what happened when a frost fair came to an end because the river was starting the thaw?  Were the residents of London sensible enough to get off the ice in time?  The following article is from the Morning Chronicle, 4th February 1814.

Notwithstanding the heavy thaw of Tuesday night, an immense multitude continue to assemble between London and Blackfriars Bridges. Booths, hoisting the flags of all nations, and painted with Cherokee taste, every where gladdened the sight, while bands of Pandean minstrels, relieved by the dulcet strain of the tin trumpet from all sides, delighted the ear. In the centre of the river a narrow stream defied the power of the frozen region, and marked the path “where once the current ran.” This interruption, however, so far from impeding the gambols of the day, increased the sport, and added to the profit of the stewards of the scene. A few small planks in some cases, and an old boat or two in others, with the simple addition of Charon’s fare, kept the communication entire, and enlivened the pastime. In some parts of the stream, where the width of un-frozen water admitted it, boats completely bent for sail with their full equipment, attracted the heedless throng. In these were placed food for the hungry, and for the thirsty relief; gin and gingerbread, with other cordials, were here on sale at a moderate price- “Ubi mel, ibi apes.” The crowd poured towards this magnetic point with extraordinary avidity. Men, women, and children were often seen in one promiscuous heap. Although it is impossibie not to feel anxious to afford every opportunity of cheering, by playful pastime, the nipping severity of the season, yet we cannot disengage our mind from the hazardous consequences of such an exhibition as we are now noticing. Between the bridges the river is entirely covered not with a regular even frozen surface, but with an incongruous accumulation of icy fragments and congealed piled snow, which, during the partial thaw, was disengaged up the river and wafted downwards; this having been intercepted by the intervention of the bridges, and partially united by the frost of the last two or three days, has completely covered the surface of the water. It is yet extremely dangerous, and was in many places last night set in motion by the influx of the tide, and carried with extreme velocity against the piers of the bridges. Some watermen, more foolhardy than others, ventured to cross opposite Temple gardens, and one of them nearly lost his life by the experiment. The public ought carefully to prevent the young and thoughtless part of the community from indulging in experiments of this description, which may terminate in the most fatal manner.

“Ubi mel, ibi apes” is a Latin phrase meaning “where there is honey, there are bees”.

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About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Britain, Christmas, Christmas History, History, London, Newspapers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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