Weather Notes

Frost Fairs on the River Thames

London's river Thames was noted for it's Frost Fairs that took place on it when very severe winters caused the water to freeze, sometimes to a depth of nearly 30cm (about 12"). These Fairs consisted of trade, travel and entertainment, and were held on the tideway of the river at London between the 1400's and the early part of the 19th century. This period is often referred to as the Little Ice Age. The last natural Frost Fair took place in 1814. Between 1408 and that year the river Thames at London froze over on at least 24 occasions, and the 1814 freeze lasted for 4 days during the early part of February when an elephant was led across the frozen river. The Great Frost of 1683-84 was the one that caused the river to freeze over for 3 months and was the worst recorded English frost, which also caused extensive sea-ice to form around the coasts of England and the Low Countries as well as northern France.

With climate change, the building of a new London Bridge and the embanking of the river, the speed of the current slowly increased to virtually eliminate the chances of winter-freezing occurring again and so the end of the Frost Fairs.