Last Saturday I spent a leisurely three hours on the Museum of London‘s Frost Fairs cruise along the River Thames.
Frost Fairs are a rare occurrence in the pages of London’s history. They were held when a combination of winter-y elements meant that the River Thames froze over and created a lot of excitement for Londoners. Our Museum of London host told us that the earliest Frost Fair was likely to have occurred in 1114-1115 between Westminster and London Bridges when all sorts of activities – shopping, drinking and eating, and games like skittles and ice-skating – were at the disposal of those who dared to venture out onto the river’s icy surface.
But it was a double-edged sword as while many entrepreneurs and well-to-do celebrated this rarity, a third of Londoners depended on the river for their livelihood and so were left destitute when they could no longer ply their many trades.
The last Frost Fair occurred in 1814-1815: Once the old London Bridge was demolished and the new bridge – constructed by John Rennie and opening in 1831 – was in place, a more free-flowing river was created, giving little opportunity for ice to “dam up”.
So last weekend I made my way along the embankment to Westminster Pier, boarded the Pride of London and took my place on the upper deck. It was one of those grey London days – not as pretty as a crisp blue-sky day but it did lend something quite atmospheric to the usual view. Here’s a little photo tour of my time on board.
Along the route back, the daylight had started to fade and I spent most of the time just watching the bank glide by, the wake from the various river craft creating foamy ripples along the shore. Before long, we were cruising past the modern shapes of London’s City Hall and The Shard…
…and London’s lights glowed in the dusk as we continued to cruise back towards Westminster.
Soon it was a quick under and back again with Westminster Bridge, a gentle drift towards Westminster Pier and with my head full of what I’d seen and heard, I disembarked and headed home.
I am a big fan of the events put on by the Museum of London and this was such a great way to spend a few grey and blustery hours on a Saturday afternoon. So I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour a fraction as much as I enjoyed for real.
Great pictures and very atmospheric. Back in the day, I used to take the occasional Sunday river cruise because it was the only place to get a drink in the afternoon.That was before the liberalisation of the old World War 1 licencing laws when last orders were called at 2pm. The view from the bar was always educational! 😀
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Thanks Jack…last orders at 2pm? Even in the colonies we didn’t have to suffer that!
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