A good half of meteorologist Currie's book is taken up with A Chronology of Famous Freezes from AD 1000, detailing the bad-weather years in idiosyncratic detail. The rest of the book deals with the three great Frost Fair winters of 1683/4, 1739/40 and 1814, when the Thames froze over and much merry was made. Many booths were set up selling the likes of brandy balls, ginger breads, black puddings, plum cakes, pancakes and glasses of 'mum': hot ale with spices and wine and added unspecified ingredients. And folk do tipple without fear to sink/More liquor than the fish beneath do drink. Printing presses were popular too, selling certificates and poems commemorating the novelty of printing on the Thames. The final Frost Fair of 1814 followed one of the worst of the famed fogs, the 'London particulars', at the end of 1813. When the persistent and fatal frost that followed began to melt the ice floes became congested between London and Blackfriars Bridges. The lumpy landscape of slabs solidified on the 1st of February, and by the 3rd there was a carnival of booths, streamers, flags - all the more spectacular at night as the stars and fires sparkled from the ice with St Paul's in the background. There was much gambling, dancing, drinking and the peddling of over-priced souvenirs before the great thaw. This again drew the crowds to watch the passing of great and small icebergs, the wrecks of lighters and barges, and even chunks of bridge smashed by the floes. The Thames now flows too fast for frost fairs, because the embankments are smoother, tributaries like the Fleet have been confined to underground culverts, and the space between the spans of the bridges, especially since the demolition of the old London Bridge, are wider. And the City can be as much as 10F warmer at night than the rest of Greater London, as the day's heat is stored in its stones. A fascinating phenomenon and an interesting, if slightly dry, with sunny intervals, read.
This is a most facinating book. I wanted it for academic background as I am reading for a history degree and I wasn't disappointed. It is wonderfully illustrated and this gives a real flavour to the period covered. The format is accessible making the topic interesting for anyone. Several members of my family have enjoyed thumbing through it.