Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 1
THE custom of engaging in various sports upon the Ice, is certainly of great antiquity in England. It is mentioned as an ordinary winter-amusement of the youth of London in the century by William Fitz-Stephen,[a] and was probably derived from the rude and hardy pastimes of the Danes and Northmen. But though there be numerous particulars extant of almost all the Great Frosts which anciently congealed the River Thames so as to render it a solid passage, the more remote notices do not appear to allude to any fair or festivity held upon it; and though there have been several such at later periods, the present account is devoted to that remarkable Frost represented in the annexed Engraving, in the reign of King Charles the .
In the [b] it is stated that in , began |
and that by the of the month the Thames was frozen. By -, the same journal relates, that
On the the river was quite frozen, and on the the writer
At this time there was a foot-passage over the river from to the horse-ferry at ; and hackney-coaches began to carry fares from Somerset-house and the Temple to . On , the day of Hilary Term, they were regularly employed in going between the and Westminster-Hall on the ice, at each of which places they stood for hire, where the watermen were accustomed to be found: and this was far from being only for the gratification of curiosity, or novelty of the circumstance, since it should be remembered that at this period was the only connection between the shores of Surrey and Middlesex; and that the use of boats was very general, on account of the rough paving of the streets which rendered riding in coaches very uneasy. By the the number of persons keeping shops on the ice had so increased, that Evelyn says
and by the the varieties and festivities of a fair appear to have been fully established.
—This traffic and festivity continued until , when it is stated in the same Diary, that
—In illustration of this notice, the following descriptive list is inserted of the various views and reliques of the Frost Fair of - which are now extant; preceded by an account of the very curious Original Drawing, now engraven for the time, represented in the annexed Plate.
It consists of a spirited, though unfinished, sketch on stout coarse paper, in pencil, slightly shaded with Indian-ink, the wellknown style of an artist particularly eminent for his views in the century, Thomas Wyck, commonly called Old Wyck, to distinguish him from his son John, who spent the greater part of his life in England. In the right hand corner at the top: the original is dated in a contemporaneous hand,
omitted in the present copy, which is also for greater convenience contracted in width, the drawing measuring inches by /. It is preserved in the Illustrated Pennant's London, formerly belonging to J. C. Crowle, Esq. in the Print Room of the , Volume viii. after page .—The View is taken from the western side of the , which appear on the left, and extends to , which is faintly shewn in the centre at the back, with all the various buildings standing upon it during the frost. On the right is an oblique view of that double line of tents which extended across the centre of the river, called at the time , consisting of taverns, toy-shops, &c., generally distinguished by some title or sign; as the Duke of York's Coffee-House, the Tory-Booth,
the Halfway House, the Bear-Gardenshire Booth, the Roast-Beef Booth, the Music Booth, the Printing Booth, the Lottery Booth, the Horn Tavern Booth, which is indicated about the centre of the present View by the antlers of a stag raised above it. On the outsides of this street were pursued the various spots of the Fair, some of which are represented in the annexed Plate; but in the nearer and larger figures of them in the Map mentioned by Evelyn, there appear extensive circles of spectators surrounding a bull-bait, and the rapid revolution of a whirling-chair or car drawn by several men by a long rope fastened to a stake fixed in the ice. Large boats, covered with tilts, capable of containing a number of passengers, and decorated with sails and steamers, were also used as sledges, some being drawn by watermen in want of their usual employment, and others by horses: of these had a drummer placed in the prow, and was called
Another sort of boat was mounted upon wheels. The pastimes of throwing at a cock, sliding and skating, walking on stilts, roasting an Ox, foot-ball, skittles, pigeon-holes, cups and balls, &c.
|are represented in the larger print as being carried on in various parts of the river; a sliding-hutch propelled by a stick, a chariot with wheels moved by a screw, and stately coaches, filled with visitors, are rapidly moving in different directions; whilst sledges with coals and wood are passing between the London and banks. As in the present view, the gardens of the Temple and the river itself are drawn full of numerous other spectators; but the annexed representation is perhaps more pictorially interesting than the print in the general scene, from the view being considerably more spacious and carefully executed: since the former embraces the whole line of the to , the Tower, the Monument finished in , the windmill near Queenhythe, the new Bow Church, and some others of the New Churches, the vacant site and ruins of Palace, and Old . Having thus laid before the reader some notices of the establishment and general appearance of this remarkable scene, a descriptive list is added of the various views, separate sheets, and books, concerning it, which are known to be at present extant, with the names of the several collections in which those slight but curious reliques are still preserved.|
[a] When that vast lake, which waters the City towards the north, is hard frozen, the youth in great numbers go to divert themselves on the ice. Some taking a small run for an increment of velocity, place their feet at the proper distance and are carried sliding sideways a great way: others will make a large cake of ice, and seating one of their companions upon it, they take hold of each other's hands and draw him along; when it sometimes happens that, moving so swiftly on so slippery a plain, they all fall headlong. Others there are who are still more expert in these amusements on the ice: they place certain bones, the leg-bones of some animal, under the soles of their feet, by tying them round their ankles, and then taking a staff shod with iron into their hands, they push themselves forward by striking it against the ice, and are carried along with a velocity equal to the flight of a bird, or a bolt discharged from a cross-bow. Sometimes two of them thus furnished, agree to start opposite one to another at a great distance: they meet, elevate their poles, attack and strike each other, when one or both of them fall and not without some bodily hurt; and even after their fall they will be carried a good distance from each other by the rapidity of the motion; and whatever part of your head comes upon the ice is sure to be laid bare to the skull. Very often the leg or arm is broken of the party that falls if he chance to light upon them.—Fitz-Stephen's Description of the City of London; Translated with a Commentary, &c. by the Rev. Samuel Pegge. Lond. 1772. 4to. pp. 51, 78.
[b] The following contemporaneous notice of this frost, also preserved in a Diary, is given in the Gentleman's Magazine for Febr. 1814, Vol. lxxxv. part i. p. 142, note from the great-grandson of the writer.—20th Dec. 1663. A very violent frost began which lasted till the 6th of February, in soe great extremity that the pooles were frozen 18 inches thick at the least; and the Thames was so frozen that a great street from the Temple to Southwark was built with shops, and all manner of things sold: here coaches plyed as in the streets. There were also shews, bull-baiting, and a great many other shews and tricks to be seen.—This day the frost broke: in the morning I saw a coach and six horses driven from Whitehall almost to the Bridge; yet by 3 o'clock that day next to Southwark the ice was gone, so as boats did now row to and fro, and the day after all the frost was gone. On Candlemas-day, Febr. 2nd, I went to Croyden market, and led my horse over the ice at the ferry at Lambeth; as I came back I led him from Lambeth upon the middle of the Thames to Whitefriars-stairs, and soe led him up them; and this day an Ox was roasted whole over against Whitehall King Charles II. with the Queene eate part of it.