Frost Fairs


{A poem from handbills of the time serpentines across the large panels:}
Behold the Liquid Thames frozen o’re,
That lately Ships of mighty Burthen bore
The Watermen for want of Rowing Boats
Make use of Booths to get their Pence & Groats
Here you may see beef roasted on the spit
And for your money you may taste a bit
There you may print your name, tho cannot write
Cause num'd with cold: tis done with great delight
And lay it by that ages yet to come
May see what things upon the ice were done.

{4 smaller slate panels with text are inserted in the gaps between the large ones with drawings:}
After the construction of London Bridge in 1169 its narrow arches slowed the Thames sufficiently for the water to freeze over in severe winters. During the freeze of 1564 the people of London took to the ice for what became the first ever Frost Fair.

Tankards of beer, ale, brandy, a dish of famous new-made coffee, tea or chocolate, Roast beef, plum cake; hot codlins, pancakes, duck, goose and sack, Rabbit, capon, Turkey and wooden Jack.

Sleds, sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cooks, tippling, and other lewd places … a Bacchanalian triumph or carnival on the water.

The final Frost Fair was held in 1814. The construction of a new London Bridge with broader spans for shipping improved the flow of the tides. The Thames no longer froze over and the Frost Fairs were no more.

Our close-up photo shows one of the scenes depicted, this one being a market stall set up on the ice to sell bread and cheese to customers in hoodies.

Site: Frost Fairs (1 memorial)

SE1, Southwark Bridge underbridge, Southwark Bridge underbridge

The south side of the pedestrian tunnel under Southwark Bridge approach is lined with 5 large slate panels inscribed with scenes from Frost Fairs on the Thames.

Ornamental Passions has the best photos of the panels that we can find. There you can see that put together they show a map (aerial view) of the south bank of the Thames from London Bridge (although oddly this is not itself shown) through to just west of what is now Blackfriars Bridge. This map is largely from Horwood's Plan (1792-9) but with north at the bottom and south at the top. On the frozen river itself are drawings of the various activities that took place at the Frost Fairs and the text of a poem, which comes from handbills printed on printing presses which were dragged onto the ice to produce novelty handbills.

We can trace this artwork back to 2008 but cannot determine when it was installed.

This section lists the subjects commemorated on the memorial on this page:
Frost Fairs

Subjects commemorated i

London Bridge

Four stone bridges have spanned the Thames at this point. The first was built...

Read More

Frost Fairs

There are records of the Thames freezing over as far back as CE 250. The pier...

Read More

This section lists the subjects who helped to create/erect the memorial on this page:
Frost Fairs

Created by i

Richard Kindersley

Sculptor and lettering artist, following his father's David's path.  Other Lo...

Read More

Nearby Memorials



E1, Angel Alley

{Plaque near the entrance to the alley:} This project was carried out with Freedom Press and the Whitechapel Art Gallery in association w...

36 subjects commemorated, 5 creators
Rennie Garden

Rennie Garden

SE1, Blackfriars Road

The 3.25 metre panorama to which the text refers can be seen at the Government Art Collection. There is a zoom feature so you can look in...

2 subjects commemorated, 1 creator
St Marys Newington - Gratton

St Marys Newington - Gratton

SE1, Newington Butts, Garden

Three churches and two clock towers have been built on this site, but nothing remains today. A modern information board (which you can se...

1 subject commemorated
Boat in Molesey

Boat in Molesey

KT8, River Thames path

A large scar in the ground (and a shape in satellite view) confirms that originally there were two boats here. Kenneth Grahame lived nea...

1 creator
Millennium Measure

Millennium Measure

EC4, Millennium Bridge, Under the bridge

This monument is a tall, triangular, pyramidal, glass case containing a steel rule, 2 metres long, marked off in millimetres. That's a p...

1 subject commemorated, 3 creators