Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/Frosts on the Thames


A hundred years hence people will be comparing notes with the calamitous winter of 1860-61, just as we have been doing during the last few weeks with such scraps and fragments of description as have come down to us about the famous frosts, and tempests, and fogs, that visited this stupendous London of ours ages upon ages ago. But they will find us of the nineteenth century intolerably tame, when they contrast us with the ancients who flourished before the Revolution. They will learn that there was a frost in England which began shortly before Christmas, 1860, and lasted on and off pretty nearly a fortnight into January; that the thermometer presented extraordinary variations in different localities, as thermometers will do according to the manner and place in which they are hung, falling in one apochryphal spot, if the reporter is to be trusted, which I am confident he is not, down to 15° below zero; that at Hamburgh, where the birds were frozen on the trees, it was several degrees lower; that in some bleak parts of Lancashire, and elsewhere, the legs of waterfowl were frozen into the ice on the surface of lakes and ponds; that the ice on the Serpentine in Hyde Park was thirteen inches thick; that myriads of persons skated on it, night after night, by torch-light; and that at the moment when the enterprising public were on the point of inaugurating a Frost Fair, the wind shifted, and put an end to the fun.

What is all this in comparison with the mighty current of the Thames congealed from bank to bank, and the traffic and uproar of the streets, even to the tramp of Flemish horses, the amusements of the court, and the pastimes of the people, from cards and dancing to archery, football, and ninepins, transferred to the highway of the river? I must allow that it was a sight to see the skaters by torch-light upon the Serpentine. The tossing of the flambeaux through the darkness, and the glancing and leaping of links hither and thither, the hands that held them being invisible, had a lurid effect much like a revel in Pandemonium, as such scenes are represented to us by our Christmas poets. The brisk trade that was carried on in torches helped out the illusion, by suggesting to the pedestrian a momentary apprehension that he had wandered in his sleep into the infernal regions, his ears being eternally smitten with sharp cries of “Who’ll buy a torch?” “A torch for two-pence!” while his eyes were exposed to the imminent danger of “total eclipse,” the said torch being incessantly flashed into his face, partly in a spirit of elvish frolic, and partly in the way of business. Nor should the scattering homeward of the streams of population over the diverging tracks of the park, towards the small hours of the morning, be forgotten, illumed here and there by trails of light from brands flung upon the path, or by the alarming hilarity of some grimy Hymen, pitching his flaming torch, from time to time, into the thick of the crowd. But how insignificant such incidents appear beside the spectacle of the whole town in miniature bivouacking upon the Thames!

Mrs. Piozzi tells us that in her time a frost was reported to have shut up the river in the second or third centuries; but the first authenticated London frost took place in 1063, the year in which Harold hunted the Welsh into their fastnesses, when the Thames was frozen over for fourteen weeks. Thirty years later, under William Rufus, the Thames was again frozen, and the rivers through the country were so heavily locked in, that when the thaw came several bridges of stone and wood, and many water-mills, were carried away. The Christmas of 1281 was marked by a similar visitation, when five arches of London Bridge were swept from their foundations, and Rochester Bridge and others entirely destroyed. On this occasion a regular daily traffic was established across the ice between Westminster and Lambeth. In 1433-4, the river was frozen below bridge to Gravesend from the 24th of November to the 10th of February; and in 1506, and again in 1515, it became practicable for carriages and cattle throughout the month of January. The entry of Edward the Sixth into London, after he was proclaimed, in 1547, was marked by an intense frost; and in that nipping air, as the royal cortége passed, a fellow suddenly appeared on the summit of Paul’s steeple, and, as swift as an arrow from a bow, ran down a rope that was fixed from the top of the steeple to a ship’s anchor in Dean’s Place.

In 1564, the year in which Shakspeare was born, the Thames at Christmas presented a surface as firm as the face of a rock. The streets were nearly emptied, so universal was the rush of the out-of-door population to the frozen river. The thoroughfare through the Strand and Fleet Street, and on to Cheapside and Lombard Street, was deserted, a more novel and agreeable route having been discovered on the ice the whole way from Westminster to London Bridge. Multitudes of people played at football out in the centre of the stream; and Queen Elizabeth, happening at this time to be at her palace of Westminster, went on the river daily, attended by her lords and ladies, to shoot at marks. The pastimes of the Court, we may be assured, were not confined to a play of mere bowman’s arrows, for there were some in the royal train who saw—or affected to see—the bent bow of Love in the brows of Majesty, and his darts in her eyes:

Both her brows bent like my bow—
By her looks I do her know,
Which you call my shafts.

Here, amongst the courtiers, was Robert Dudley, who, exactly twelve months before, had been proposed by the Queen as a husband to Mary Stuart, one of those inscrutable instances of State policy, or womanly craft, upon which historical investigation has hitherto failed to throw a solitary ray of light. Dudley was now on the high road to the dangerous summit of his ambition. New Year’s Day was close at hand, when he might hope to outstrip the most magnificent of his contemporaries in the costliness of his offerings; and, perhaps, he had even already a prophetic inspiration of the happy fortune that was to crown his devotion in the following September, when “Great Eliza” conferred upon him the Earldom of Leicester, and the castle and manor of Kenilworth, where the famous revel was afterwards held. But who can look with confidence to the future from the vantage ground of present prosperity? Both favourite and frost came to violent ends: the one poisoned on a journey to that same castle in which he had himself secretly despatched two of his victims, and the other broken up suddenly into fearful inundations, upon whose rising waters houses, bridges, and vessels were borne down to the sea like the fragments of a wreck.

The winter of 1607-8 was still more severe. The frost began about the first week in December, and fluctuated on and off till the first week in January, when it set in with extraordinary rigour. At first, between the alternate freezing and thawing, and the disruption of floating masses of ice, the populace ventured only half-way across the river; but by degrees communications were opened from bank to bank opposite to Southwark and Lambeth, and then the general public took tumultuous possession. Most of the popular pastimes were at once established; and tents were set up for dancing and refreshments. Speculative tradesmen also transported their wares for sale to the crowded scene, and shoemakers and barbers pursued their avocations at temporary stands. Whether any particular kind of shoes, especially suited to the occasion, were offered for sale, does not appear; but chopines and pantofles were purchased in abundance, as gifts from city gallants to the fair ladies who ventured with them upon the ice. The barber, always popular with his gittern and lute-strings, was a centre of attraction. To have been shaved on the ice in the middle of the Thames was undoubtedly something to remember; and many an old man relieved the dull Christmas nights under the Commonwealth by relating to his grand-children how he underwent the operation, and what adventures befel him in that memorable winter. The frost lasted altogether nearly two months, the last four weeks being intense.

The allusions of Evelyn and Pepys to the state of the weather in their time are not satisfactory. “Now,” says Evelyn, under date of the 22nd January, 1649, “was the Thames frozen over with horrid tempests of wind.” Towards the end of November, 1662, there was a hard frost, which Pepys briefly dismisses by observing that “it is news to us, there having been none almost these three years.” The fact is that science had made very little advance in the investigation of meteorological phenomena. The seventeenth century was not a whit wiser in the matter of frosts and storms and shooting stars than the twelfth or thirteenth. Ignorance and superstition, on the contrary, had resolved themselves into articles of faith. Dr. Dee’s crystal was in general request, Dryden believed in astrology, and Sir Kenelm Digby dieted the exquisite Venetia upon viper wine to preserve her beauty. The weather was as great a mystery to these philosophers as it had been to the monks who tracked the course of time in their scrolls ages before. The Registers of the Grey Friars tell us, for instance, that there were great storms in 1203, when the hailstones were as big as eggs, and birds were burned on the wing; and that in 1221, during a violent tempest, fiery dragons and flying spirits were seen careering through the air.[1] The Royal Society, in the advanced era of Charles II., had meteorological marvels quite as astonishing to investigate. Amongst the problems they propounded for scientific inquiry were the cosmetic virtues of May-dew, the difference between the size of snow-flakes in Teneriffe and in England, and the productive virtue of a shower of rain which was alleged to resemble corn, and which Mr. Boyle and Mr. Evelyn, being great agricultural authorities, were requested to sow, to see what kind of crop it would yield.

It was during the frost of 1662 that skates were introduced into England from Holland. Evelyn witnessed what he describes as the wonderful and dexterous evolutions of the skaters for the first time on the 1st December. The performance took place in the presence of their majesties, on the canal which had then been recently cut in St. James’s Park. Evelyn particularly notes the swiftness of the skaters, and the suddenness with which they arrested themselves in full career upon the ice. The Thames was frozen that winter, but the watermen contrived to keep a passage open for the gentry. “I went home by water,” says Evelyn, “but not without exceeding difficulty, great flakes of ice encompassing our boat.” With the exception of a fog in August, of all months, 1663, and another which overspread the river in the December of 1671, “the thickest and darkest,” according to Evelyn, who was in the midst of it, “ever known in the memory of man,” the weather does not appear to have undergone any remarkable aberrations, till we come to the winter 1683-4.

This season was distinguished by one of the most remarkable frosts on record, there not being an hour’s intermission from the commencement of December to the 5th of February. The Thames was congealed into a solid mass of ice, eleven inches in thickness. A new city sprang into existence on the river. Streets of booths were erected, the principal of which, called “Temple Street,” crossed the stream from the Temple Stairs to Southwark. It consisted of a variety of shops, richly furnished within to attract customers, and decorated gaily on the outside with flags, and signs, selected apparently for their singularity; such as the “Broom,” and the “Whip and Egg-shell.” The vast holiday market thus put into activity acquired the nick-name of “Blanket Fair,” in consequence of the booths being formed of blankets, which, like Goldsmith’s chest of drawers, did double duty, as we learn from one of the doggerel broadsides of the day:

Like Babel, this fair’s not built with brick or stone,
Though here, I believe, is a great confusion.
Now blankets are forced a double duty to pay,
As beds all the night, and for houses all day.

The booths supplied every conceivable kind of commodity, such as goldsmiths’ work, books, toys, cutlery, ornaments, and refreshments, for which they charged exorbitant prices, a fact the rhyming historians of the scene have not failed duly to chronicle:

And such a fair I never yet came near,
Where shop-rents were so cheap and goods so dear.

Coals and wood, which even on land were nearly up to famine prices, brought enormous gains to the purveyors, and were conveyed over the ice on sledges, or on men’s backs. Provisions were daily cooked in the booths, one of which, by way of speciality, took the title of “the Roast-beef Booth;” and a whole ox (of which the king and queen are said to have partaken) was roasted on the ice, in an enclosed space, to which the public were admitted on payment. Carts and horses, and horsemen, moved to and fro as upon a high road; and private coaches crossed and re-crossed, amongst them the coach of Mr. Evelyn, which passed over from Lambeth to the horse-ferry at Millbank, and a coach and six which was driven from Whitehall nearly to London Bridge, the day before the ice broke up. Hackneys also plied for hire up and down the available extent of the river, supplying the place of the watermen, who, driven from their legitimate occupation, endeavoured to find employment by dragging boats on the ice, or setting up what the poet just quoted calls “fuddling tents:”

And those that used to ask where shall I land ye?
Now cry, what lack ye, sir, beer, ale, or brandy?

Several lines or stands of hackneys were established at the different stairs, and the familiar sounds of “Westward, ho!” and “Eastward, ho!” might be heard along the banks, without the professional addition of “Sculler, sir?” “Oars, sir?” The watermen were very sensitive to this usurpation of their calling, and in a ballad in which they afterwards celebrated the “melting of the Thames,” they dwelt with particular satisfaction upon the resumption of those turbulent cries which formed a characteristic feature of the life of the river:

Let’s tune our throats
To our usual notes,
Of Twitnam, Richmond, hey!
Sir, sculler, sir? oars, sir?
Loudly roar, sir,
Here’s Dick, sir, you won’t pass him by?

Bartholomew at its prime was inferior in variety of humours to this “Freezland Fair or Icy Bear Garden,” as it is designated in one of the ballads. There was some humour even in the signs and announcements of the tents. One was the “Horns Tavern,” indicated by the antlers of a stag hoisted over the entrance; another was the “Phœnix, insured against fire as long as the foundation lasted.” The diversions were endless, not the least extraordinary of them being horse and coach races. There were show-booths for rope-dancing, conjuring, and puppet-plays; music booths and lottery booths, a miniature bear-garden, a ring for bull-baiting, close under the Temple Gardens, and not far off might be enjoyed the singular pastime of hunting a fox on the ice, an incident selected for particular admiration by one of the river poets:

There was fox-hunting on this frozen river,
Which may a memorandum be for ever,
For I do think, since Adam drew his breath,
No fox was hunted on the ice to death.

Throwing at cocks, foot-ball, bowls, nine-pins, cups and balls, and pigeon-holes were the principal sports. Bowls and nine-pins were played by both sexes in the seventeenth century; but while bowls was a common amusement among ladies of quality, nine-pins was confined chiefly to the wives of citizens.

A WONDERFUL FAIR, or a FAIR OF WONDERS; being a new and true Illustration and Description of the several things acted and done on the river Thames in the time of the terrible frost, which began at the beginning of December, 1683-4, and continued till the 4th of February, and held on with such violence that men and beasts, coaches and sledges, went common thereon. There was also a street of boothes, built from the Temple to South-wark, where was sold all sorts of goods; there likewise were bulls baited, a fox hunted, and an ox roasted whole, and many other strange things, as the Mapp and Description doth plainly shew.

A few professors of the yet exclusive art of skating mingled with the crowd; but the bulk of the people had not advanced beyond the primæval pastime of sliding, which was, here and there, somewhat improved upon by being practised in a hutch, propelled by a stick. Open boats and tilt-boats, dragged by men or horses, and chariots moved by screws, or teams of horses, afforded accommodation to thousands of spectators, who were by these means enabled to traverse the crowded surface in comparative safety. Tumblers, and boys walking on stilts, collected crowds of gazers, and contended for popularity with Dutch whimsies, and whirling sledges swept rapidly round in a circle by men drawing a rope fastened to a stake fixed in the centre.

The most successful of all the speculations seems to have been a printing-press which was set up in a booth about the middle of Temple-street, on the west side. Multitudes flocked to this booth either to buy ballads about the frost, which the pressmen were constantly occupied in throwing off, or to get their names printed on a little card, as a memorial of the scene. The printer made a rich harvest by his industry: he charged sixpence for printing a single name, and it was estimated that he made a clear gain of 5l. a-day. Lord Braybrooke saw one of the cards, and describes it as containing the following words within a treble border:

Mons. et Madm. Justel. Printed on the river Thames, being frozen. In the 36th year of King Charles II. February the 5th, 1683.[2]

Many of the nobility carried away similar memorials. The following most curious specimen of the Frost press is mentioned by Dr. Rimbault as being in the possession of Mr. Upcott. It consists of a quarter-sheet of coarse Dutch paper, in which, within a type border, measuring 3½ inches by 4, are printed the name of the king and the family party with whom, on one occasion, he visited Blanket Fair. It may be observed that he was not always there in equally good company, or at such reputable hours as to obtain access to the printing press.

The dramatis personæ in this little royal comedy speak for themselves: the poor, ill-favoured Queen Katherine; Mary D’Este, second Duchess of York; Ann, afterwards Queen of England; and her husband, the Prince of Denmark. The closing name, which, translated into English, means “Jack in the Kitchen,” is, says Dr. Rimbault, supposed to be a touch of the king’s humour. The supposition is, no doubt, correct, the touch of humour consisting in a gross allusion to the situation of the Princess Ann, which nobody but his majesty would be likely to have made.

The cold was so bitter throughout the continuance of the frost, that men and cattle died in the fields, trees split, plants, birds, and fish perished, and whole parks of deer were destroyed. Small-pox raged in London, as it appears to have done on other similar visitations; the streets were filled with the smoke of the sea-coal, blinding the eyes, and choking the lungs; the supply of water was paralysed; and the brewers, in common with many other contributors to the public comfort, were compelled to suspend their works.

It was in the midst of this rigorous season that the weak and impetuous Duke of Monmouth suddenly disappeared from his house in Holborn, and was seen a few days afterwards in Holland, on his way to the Court of the Prince of Orange. He had the true Stuart blood in him, a little diluted on the mother’s side. He was vain, irresolute, and obstinate, suspected everybody, could do nothing in an open, straightforward way, and was eternally mixed up in plots and schemes. His father and his uncle at this very time, with all their show of pleasantry at Blanket Fair, were engaged in secret manœuvres to counteract each other; Charles plotting with Monmouth against the Duke of York, but doing it in such a way as to fill Monmouth with alarm for his own safety; Monmouth distrusting his father, and plotting against his uncle; and the Duke of York plotting against both. There is an historical completeness in the coil that exactly fits the family. It was in this winter, towards the beginning of February, when the frost was at the depth of its severity on the flat exposed surface of Holland, that Monmouth presented himself at the Hague. He was not alone. He was accompanied by the beautiful Lady Henrietta Wentworth, who had forsaken all to cling to him in the hour of adversity; and who, only a twelvemonth later, sold her last jewels to help out that miserable expedition which doomed him to the scaffold. The situation was embarrassing enough. Here was the Prince of Orange receiving at his Court a young pretender, who at that moment was acknowledged to be the hope and head of the party that was organised to keep his own father-in-law out of the succession, and who, to mend matters, presented himself with his mistress in his hand. But neither prince nor princess had many scruples, political or moral. And looking to what happened afterwards to the whole family, and how near at hand was the time when the Prince of Orange was to drive his aforesaid father-in-law before him out of his own kingdom, the reception given to Monmouth, and the favours lavished on Lady Henrietta, cannot excite much astonishment.

Picture, then, this gallant and captivating youth,—for at this time he was only thirty-five—whose dazzling presence extinguished all rivalry at Whitehall, and who, De Grammont tells us, was the universal terror of all husbands and lovers, employed in the tenderest dalliance at the court of the Hague, teaching the princess new country dances, walking with her every day for hours together on the Mall, and teaching her to skate by the express desire of the prince. The picture is striking; but it would be imperfect without its pendant, which, while this handsome reprobate was at the Hague, shows us his father, the King of England, abandoning himself at Blanket Fair to midnight orgies, over which decent history drops a curtain!

A few years onward bring us to the sequel of these events culminating in the frost of January 1688. The last days of James II. are coming. The rabble are demolishing Popish chapels, and the town houses of the Popish gentry, not sparing even that of the Spanish Ambassador, which they pillage. The Prince of Orange has advanced as far as Windsor. James takes shipping for France, but is obliged to put in for ballast at Faversham, where he is so ill-treated by the populace that he returns to London. It is the fight of a rat with his back to the wall. Seeing that nothing is for it but to put the best face he can upon his helplessness, he sends the General of his forces to “invite” the Prince of Orange to St. James’s. But the General, coming without passport or trumpet, is detained, and the King is warned to retire. James takes this message in dudgeon, but steals off, nevertheless, privately to Rochester, from whence he is persuaded to return, and then does a brave thing. His last struggle. He dines in public, and has a Jesuit to say mass. The next night a council; the next day a second flight to Rochester, and from thence to France, and all is over. The Prince of Orange holds court at St. James’s, and all the world is there, admiring and wondering, and speculating upon his stately reserve and Dutch phlegm. And all this time it is freezing bitterly in the basin of the Thames.

Another revolution of years, and another frost, of seven weeks’ duration, in the winter of 1694-5. In 1715-16, the Thames was frozen from the 24th November to the 9th February. An ox was roasted near Hungerford Stairs, booths were erected, and the sports of the fair of 1684 revived.

Of still more alarming proportions was the Great Frost, so called from its extraordinary intensity and long continuance. It lasted from Christmas Day, 1739, till the 17th of February following, when it began to thaw, and took nearly the rest of the month to disappear. The aspect of the river was like a model in the raw material of some select nook in the Arctic Regions, being covered with icebergs, rising on all sides in gigantic masses. A vast frost fair, rivalling the carnival of 1684, was speedily set in motion, a printing press established, and an ox killed in solemn form by a butcher in a rich laced cambric apron, a silver steel, and a fine hat and feathers, who claimed the office by inheritance, his father having killed the ox that was roasted in 1684, and he having been himself the executioner in 1715. The productions of the press, or presses—for there were evidently more than one—appear to have been rather numerous, and to have consisted, for the most part, of metrical scraps, inclosed in copper-plate borders, representing views of the fair, or fantastical designs. One of these legends will be enough as a sample. It will be seen that it was printed as far down the river as Queenhithe:

Upon the Frost in the Year 1739-40.

Behold the liquid Thames now frozen o’er,
That lately ships of mighty burthen bore;
Here you may print your name, tho’ cannot write,
Cause numbed 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.

Mr. John Cross, aged 6.

Printed on the Ice upon the Thames, at Queenhithe, January the 29th, 1739-40.

On this occasion coals and water rose to a fabulous price, and the poor were reduced to the last extremity of distress. The watermen and fishermen went about the streets, carrying a peter-boat draped in mourning, and carpenters, gardeners, and numerous other workmen made long dismal processions through the town, exhibiting their useless implements also in mourning, and singing doleful frozen-out ditties. The breaking up of this stupendous frost was as disastrous as might have been expected from the peculiarities of its formation. The ice was rent in enormous masses, and drifted away with the rising stream; and early on the following morning the inhabitants of the west side of London Bridge were amazed to see detached settlements of booths, shops, and huts, of different shapes and sizes, without a human being in them, floating down under their windows, and dashing with violence against the arches below. Many of the houses, and portions of the bridge, suffered considerable damage.

Frost Fair on the Thames, A.D. 1814; from one or two prints of the time.

In 1768 and 1785 the river was again frozen; but no further attempt was made at an ice festival till 1788-9, when there was a clear seven weeks’ frost, from November to January. Most of the features of the previous years were repeated, and travelling menageries were added to the attractions. The ice was practicable from shore to shore at the lower reach of the river opposite the Custom House; but, notwithstanding the extent of surface frozen, the thaw came so rapidly that the lives of thousands of persons were placed in jeopardy by the terror and confusion it produced. As the ice cracked and broke away down the stream, many ships were torn away from their moorings, and a house at Rotherhithe was lifted from its foundations.

The last time the Thames was frozen over was in 1814. Violent storms of snow, and north-easterly winds, accompanied by an intense frost, prevailed throughout the month of January, after which the river was considered safe for foot-passengers. The watermen made rough paths strewn with ashes, direct and diagonal, from bank to bank, for which they charged toll, making a considerable revenue—amounting to as much as £6 a-day—during the short time the fair lasted. A street of tents, called the “City Road,” afforded the usual recreations to visitors; printing presses were more numerous than ever, but the novelty was worn out, and the supply exceeded the demand; a sheep was roasted, and slices of the mutton were sold at a shilling a pound; and itinerant vendors of pies and gingerbread filled the air with their shrill cries. The vast quantities of snow that had fallen gave a peculiar character to the scene. Gathering into a species of glaciers against the shores, buildings, and bridges, sometimes broken off by the action of the tide and forming islands of ice crowned with pinnacles of fleecy drift, and sometimes carried away with perilous rapidity, the surface presented an appearance of a wild sea of ice and snow tossed by tempests, and never level or secure. The dislocation and dispersion of these frozen rifts was attended with great peril. A thaw set in all at once, with torrents of rain, and in a single night the Thames was strewn with the fragments of the merry fair. Some roysterers were carousing in a booth about two o’clock in the morning, when the tide rose, and, bursting the ice, carried off the booth with terrific velocity. The unfortunate bacchanalians, in their terror, set fire to the tent, which exposed them, without the possibility of human aid, to two modes of death. Dashed about from iceberg to iceberg, they leaped into a lighter, which soon afterwards struck against one of the piers of Blackfriars Bridge, where some of them escaped, the others flinging themselves into a barge that happened to pass. The incident is characteristic of the closing scene of the frost of 1814.

That winter was considered at the time the most severe ever experienced in London. There had been twelve weeks of incessant north and north-east winds. The cold was unexampled; masses of snow choked up the streets and roads; travelling was nearly impossible; the people shut themselves up in their houses, and the town looked as if it were deserted. Yet, it was in the depth of that winter, just two days after Christmas Day, Lord Castlereagh set out for Harwich, on his way to the head quarters of the allies at Chatillon-sur-Seine. Nothing but an overwhelming sense of public duty could induce a man to set forth on such a journey at such a season: but these are items of which history takes no account. The day was so dangerous and impracticable, that the Prince Regent, who had left London in the morning to pay a visit to the Marquis of Salisbury in Hertfordshire, was obliged to return to Carlton House, being warned of the perils of the journey by the fact of one of his out-riders having ridden into a ditch at Kentish Town, then a suburban village.

But Lord Castlereagh was not to be deterred by roadside disasters. He started at seven o’clock in the evening in so dense a fog that, notwithstanding the blaze of a troop of flambeaux, his coach could hardly make its way through the streets. His route lay across marshy Essex, where, long after he had got safely beyond the range of the London atmosphere, he was still enveloped in thick vapour. The state of the weather was even more exceptional than the hurricane that swept the coast on the death of Cromwell; and if there had been any augurs abroad they might have predicted the worst conclusion to the mission in which the minister was engaged. But his lordship made his way safely, notwithstanding, to the allied camp, and so far as he was personally concerned, accomplished successfully the task he had undertaken.

And so ends the Chronicle of London Frosts.

Robert Bell.

  1. The same Registers record a heavy fall of rain in 1552, which lay on the grass as red as wine. A similar phenomenon is stated, on the authority of the Profossor of Chemistry at the University of Sienna, to have occurred in that town, on the 2Sth of December last, about seven a.m., when there was a copious fall of rain of a reddish hue, which lasted for two hours, a second fall at eleven a.m., and a third at two p.m., the colour being deepest in the first. The fall was strictly local, and confined to a small quarter, the rain in the immediate neighbourhood being colourless. During the day the thermometer varied from forty-six to fifty degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Either the frost printer or Lord Braybrooke is at fault here.