20 Dec: The Carnival on the Water

The ‘Frost Fair’, held on the frozen River Thames, caused a sensation on 20th December, 1683, when all London society, from Charles II down, came out to enjoy a bacchanalian Christmas on the ice. The festivities were a great relief for a nation riddled with smallpox, and enduring what was possibly Britain’s coldest ever Winter.

Among the entertainments on offer were fox-hunting, cock-fighting, sledding, coach-racing, pop-up barbers, barbecues and public houses, and, um, a lot of sex workers. Plus something called ‘Dutch Whimsy’.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly ask why the monarch’s attendance at the event was so important to the capital’s watermen; reveal how printed souvenirs came to be THE must-have keepsake from the fair; and explain how the ‘new’ London Bridge ruined all the frost fair fun… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Great Frost Fair of 1683-4’ (History Today, 1960): https://www.historytoday.com/archive/feature/great-frost-fair-1683-4

• ‘A Carnival on the Water: the Frost Fair of 1683’ (British Library, 2017) : https://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2017/05/a-carnival-on-the-water-the-frost-fair-of-1683.html

• ‘Frost Fairs: London’s Frozen Thames’ (Museum of London, 2014): 

#1600s #London #Christmas