The City Mill river separates London Aquatics Centre from the West Ham United Stadium. I peered at its fractured reflection through thin sheets of ice, as I tried to steady the camera and ponder the wintry scene. My dad remembers a big freeze when the Thames partially froze over in 1947, and the photos below of Limehouse Reach and the entrance to Deptford Creek from February 1895 are visual testament to the kind of weather conditions I can only recall as a child in 1963. Meteorologists and historians think the last time London’s rivers completely froze over was in 1814. There was a frost fair on the Thames in its honour, that began on February 1st and lasted five days.Will such intemperate conditions become less or more likely with global warming?Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
During the “Frost Fair” in 1814, oxen were grilled, drinks were consumed, dancing ensued and an elephant marched beside Blackfriars Bridge across the frozen Thames River. The river froze over at least 23 times from 1309 to 1814. The river was frozen solid enough to hold a “Frost Fair” five times, counting the one in 1814. When the Thames River froze over, this affected the livelihood of the watermen and lightermen who moved people and goods. To compensate for lost earnings, they organized the fairs, charging the renters and traders for ice access.