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1814: A cold year with a severe winter


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  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

1814 was a cold year with a severe winter, a cold spring overall, a cold summer and a cold autumn. Despite the coldness of 1814, it did produce a surprise month.

Jan: -2.9 (-5. 8)

Feb: 1.4 (-2.5)

Mar: 2.9 (-1.7)

Apr: 9.6 (+1.6)

May: 9.2 (-2.3)

Jun: 12.2 (-2.3)

Jul: 16.0 (-0.1)

Aug: 14.7 (-1.1)

Sep: 12.8 (-0.4)

Oct: 8.1 (-1.3)

Nov: 4.7 (-0.6)

Dec: 4.3 (+1.1)

The severe cold spell began on the 27th of December 1813 and the daily CET mean remained below zero until the 28th of January 1814

The period 27th December 1813-27th -January 1814 had a CET average of -3.15C. Not surprisingly, the Thames froze and the last of the great Frost Fairs was held at the start of February. The weather turned somewhat milder during the second week of February but the cold returned during the back end of February and continued well into March. The CET for 1st-19th of March 1814 was just 0.4C.

Snowfalls were often heavy and it was one of the snowiest winters ever recorded

It warmed up during the last third of March but the real surprise was the April. April 1814 was a notably warm month in what was a notably cold year. Mid-month was particularly mild.

The cold returned during May, the 5th and 24th were particularly cold days. May returned a CET that was less than that of April and it is one of only 6 occasions that this happened

January: 3rd coldest on record (1st-25th Jan, CET: -3.6)

April warmer than May

Winter 1813-14: 4th coldest on record, the CET for 21st December 1813- 20th March 1814 is -0.3C

January-March 1814 is the 3rd coldest such period ever recorded with a CET of 0.47, only 1684 and 1740 had colder first quarters to a year

All 4 seasons are within the top 50 coldest of their groupings

The winter of 1813-14 is the 4th driest on record

The annual CET for 1814 is 7.75C and it is the 7th coldest year ever recorded

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  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam
What was the main reason why the cold weather ended so adruptly and hence the end of the frost fairs. I suppose theres lots of differant theorys?

Old London Bridge acted as as a restriction to the flow of the Thames, it was the last bridge across the Thames at the time. In 1831, it was demolished and replaced with a bridge with wider arches and this allowed the river to flow more easily and less chance of it freezing. The Thames was embanked in places during the 19th century and this also decreased the chances of the Thames freezing completely.

Other factors played its part such as UHI.

If London Bridge hadn't been demolished then it is possible there could have been frost fairs during the following winters

1837-38, 1854-55, 1878-79, 1879-80, 1879-80, 1880-81, 1890-91, 1894-95, 1939-40, 1946-47, 1962-63, 1985-86

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  • Location: Buckingham
  • Location: Buckingham
What was the main reason why the cold weather ended so adruptly and hence the end of the frost fairs. I suppose theres lots of differant theorys?

It was a very cold period. Mr Data is right about the bridges, but I would imagine the temperatures at the time were low enough to have frozen the river anyway. Temperatures have always fluctuated (well before man started to change things) but no theory as to why has ever gained universal acceptance.

The 'Little Ice Age' as it was known came and went. before that, in Shakespeare's day, 'milk came frozen i' the pail'. Before that, Greenland during the Viking period was much wamer than it is now and vines were common in England during some parts of the Middle Ages.

Interesting though....


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  • Location: Buckingham
  • Location: Buckingham
Drawing of the frost fair of 1814


And this from the Museum of London, a piece of shortbread bought at the frost fair of 1814


Has it got a sell by date?

8) Moose

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  • Location: Shrewsbury
  • Location: Shrewsbury
What was the main reason why the cold weather ended so adruptly and hence the end of the frost fairs. I suppose theres lots of differant theorys?

As well as making the river flow slowly, the old London Bridge also stopped the tide- unlike today the river above London Bridge wasn't tidal, or certainly had much less of a tidal influence than nowadays. I've read that the old bridge held back up to 80% of the water- that would really make the frozen stretches almost an artificial lake rather than a river.

Are there any accounts of these fairs on other rivers, which have not been so dramatically altered since? I'm thinking of the Severn (if the tidal part of that can freeze, surely any UK river can), Mersey, Tyne, Clyde etc?

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  • Location: South Pole
  • Location: South Pole
I meant specifically the lower reaches, which the tide affects- the Shropshire stretch has certainly frozen within living memory but what about further downriver- Worcester, Gloucester etc?

I was in Worcester in January 1982 and the Severn (which is only slightly wider at Worcester than at Shrewbury) had certainly frozen over then. I know that because I've just looked at my albums, which include a lovely photo of the snow-covered cathedral, bridge and frozen river taken from the boundary of the New Road Cricket Ground.

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  • 1 year later...
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

Here's an extract from Thomas Brown of Cirencester on the winter of 1813-14

"The frost commenced on the 26th December 1813, the thermometer placed against a house in Cirencester and taken at 8.30 am fluctuated between 12F and 22F for the first 3 weeks, during this period there were two falls of snow about 2 inches deep. The sky was clear and there was little wind always from the north or east. At the beginning of the fourth week, there was a great disturbance in the atmosphere, high winds and a fall of 15 inches of snow with deep drifts, stopping all traffic of the roads. Hard frosts followed, the thermometer falling to 10F on the 25th January, the wind then shifted to south and days thawed suceeded by frosty nights followed.

On the 3rd February, two dense concentric circles appeared around the moon and on the 5th we had snow and then a rapid thaw leaving only drifts of snow. The frost then resumed and continued with keen winds to the end of February; a slight tendency to thaw in the beginning of March was followed by a week of steady, clear, frosty weather until the 12th, about which time crystals of snow fell, then a week of cold easterly winds with severe frosts until the 20th March, when a south wind brought mild weather and rain."

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  • 3 months later...
  • Location: Irlam
  • Location: Irlam

Temperatures and wind direction at Tottenham


1. 37f, 33f E

2. 40f, 37f SE

3. 43f, 40f SE

4. 44f, 40f NE

5. 44f, 36f N

6. 44f, 36f N

7. 44f, 41f NE

8. 44f, 40f NE

9. 44f, 39f NE

10. 43f, 37f NE

11. 42f, 37f NE

12. 37f, 29f SE

13. 37f, 26f NW

14. 35f, 25f NW

15. 38f, 26f NW

16. 49f, 40f SW

17. 51f, 50f S

18. 54f, 44f SW

19. 50f, 35f SW

20. 45f, 31f W

21. 46f, 32f NE

22. 47f, 36f SW

23. 47f, 38f SW

24. 53f, 46f SW

25. 51f, 41f SW

26. 41f, 28f NW

27. 31f, 25f

28. 30f, 24f

29. 30f, 19f

30. 32f, 22f NW

31. 35f, 22f N


1. 31f, 20f

2. 32f, 28f

3. 33f, 29f

4. 33f, 25f E

5. 33f, 32f NE

6. 34f, 15f N

7. 28f, 11f NW

8. 31f, 12f NW

9. 29f, 8f NW

10. 26f, 21f NW

11. 25f, 15f SE

12. 27f, 15f N

13. 30f, 14f NE

14. 26f, 19f NE

15. 31f, 20f E

16. 32f, 22f NE

17. 30f, 11f N

18. 36f, 30f E

19. 34f, 28f NE

20. 33f, 14f NE

21. 26f, 14f VAR.

22. 32f, 8f N

23. 35f, 15f N

24. 33f, 24f VAR.

25. 36f, 20f VAR.

26. 36f, 33f SW

27. 39f, 33f W

28. 40f, 28f VAR.

29. 41f, 32f VAR.

30. 40f, 25f W

31. 38f, 26f NW


1. 36f, 26f NW

2. 41f, 24f N

3. 33f, 19f N

4. 32f, 19f W

5. 38f, 29f SW

6. 44f, 33f NW

7. 40f, 32f W

8. 50f, 35f SW

9. 47f, 40f SW

10. 49f, 42f SW

11. 50f, 35f S

12. 48f, 39f S

13. 46f, 37f SE

14. 41f, 29f NE

15. 38f, 29f NE

16. 39f, 28f NE

17. 33f, 19f NE

18. 39f, 30f NE

19. 40f, 23f NE

20. 31f, 18f VAR.

21. 34f, 19f SE

22. 32f, 21f E

23. 32f, 18f SE

24. 33f, 18f E

25, 34f, 21f SE

26. 35f, 24f NE

27. 39f, 26f SE

28. 41f, 30f SW


1. 45f, 31f VAR.

2. 45f, 31f SW

3. 42f, 30f E

4. 35f, 31f NE

5. 34f, 28f NE

6. 34f, 28f NE

7. 32f, 21f E

8. 33f, 26f NE

9. 34f, 27f NE

10. 35f, 29f NE

11. 41f, 32f NE

12. 39f, 21f NE

13. 38f, 30f N

14. 36f, 30f NE

15. 37f, 30f NE

16. 40f, 29f NE

17. 39f, 28f NE

18. 37f, 29f NE

19. 35f, 30f NE

20. 49f, 35f SE

Some daily reports

26th-29th Dec: A succession of thick fogs.

4th Jan: The air has been loaded with particles of freezing water. These attached themselves to all objects, crystallizing in the most regular and beautiful manner. A blade of grass was thus converted into a pretty thick stalagmite.

5th Jan: Snow early and during the day, the wind increasing in force from the NE.

6th Jan: A dark morning. Snow falling in some quantity. Instead of driving loose before the wind, it was collected occasionally into a ball, which rolled on, increasing till its weight stopped it, thousands of these were seen to be lying in the fields, some of which several inches in diameter.

11th Jan: The river Lea is now firmly frozen and the Thames so much encumbered with ice as that navigation is scarcely practicable. The quantity of snow which has fallen in the upper parts of hampshire is very great, lying in many places 15 feet deep.

Jan 13th: From the uncommon depth of the snow, the streets appeared almost deserted (Dublin)

15th Jan: The masses of ice and snow had accumulated in such quantities at London Bridge, on the upper side, yesterday that it was utterly impossible for barges or boats to pass up.

18th Jan: A snowy morning.

19th Jan: A snowy day

23rd Jan: Snow morning and evening.

24th Jan: About 2pm, a squall with plenty of snow.

26th Jan: Snow followed by small rain

27th Jan: A misty thaw.

29th Jan: Stormy, snow early then steady rain then followed by more snow.

31st Jan: Sudden heavy snow shower about 7pm

3rd Feb: All avenues from Cheapside to the different stairs on the banks of the river were distinguished by large chalked boards announcing "a safe footway over the River to Bankside." Several booths, formed of blankets and sail-cloths and ornamented with streamers and various signs were also erected in the very centre of the river., where the visitors could be accomodated with various luxuries. In one of the booths, the entertaining spectacle of a sheep roasting was exhibited.

5th Feb. Crimson sky at sunrise: hollow wind, snow and sleet.

7th Feb:

"Printed to commemorate a remarkably severe frost which commenced December 27, 1813, accompanied by an unusual thick fog, that continued 8 days ad was succeeded by a tremendous fall of snow, which prevented all communication with the Northern and Western raods for several days. The Thames presented a complete field of ice between London and Blackfriars bridges, on Monday the 31st of January 1814."

18th Feb: Much hoar frost, some rain evening.

19th Feb: Hoar frost

20th Feb: Hoar frost

22nd Feb: Hoar frost

1st Mar: Damp and cloudy, hollow wind, sleet pm.

2nd Mar: Rain and sleet at intervals.

3rd-8th Mar: Snow at intervals, the country has become white again with snow.

9th Mar: Snow more plentiful in the night

10-12th Mar: Snow at intervals.

21st Mar: Rainy

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  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)

Thames frost fair 1814

Yet on Thursday to most people the ice seemed to be a solid rock. The fair continued to grow and attract more visitors. There were swings, bookstalls, skittles, dancing-booths, merry-go-rounds, sliding-barges, just like Greenwich and Bartlemy Fairs. Friday the 4th brought even more, and scores of pedlars. Books and toys - anything - labelled with the words "bought on the Thames," found an easy market at a silly price. The Thames watermen, far from being ruined made a huge profit by charging a toll of twopence or threepence to enter ‘Frost Fair;’ - and demanding a tip on leaving. Some were rumoured to have made up to £6 a day.

That afternoon, however, the ice cracked above London Bridge, a large piece carrying away a man and two boys through one of the arches. They had the good sense to lie flat and were rescued by some Billingsgate fishermen. For the remainder of the week the fair remained in full swing, the ‘City Road’ between Blackfriars Bridge and London Bridge crowded till after nightfall.

It was to be London's last frost fair and started on February 1st but was taken down just 4 days later. Games, races and drinking bouts were accompanied by the roasting of a sheep which drew quite a crowd - though they were charged sixpence to view it (The meat was afterwards sold at a shilling a slice as ‘Lapland mutton). An elephant was led across the Thames below Blackfriars Bridge.

A printer named Davis published a 124-page book entitled 'Frostiana; Or a history of the river Thames in a frozen state.' Its printing was completed on February 5th only hours before the ice cracked and booths, people and stalls were sent tumbling into the river.

Another book with a good description of the Frost Fair is John Ashton's Social England under the Regency. Ashton describes the frolickers playing skittles, drinking in tents "with females," dancing reels, more sedate coffee-drinking, and gaming booths. Souvenir cards were printed on printing presses set up on the ice. The Annual Register said the carousing went on until the ice began to break up and then people went scrambling to safety. There was some loss of life and there never again was a freezing of the river sufficient to hold a frost fair. It should be noted that fairs at this time had to be established by royal charter, so technically these impromptu parties were not strictly legal anyway.

Further drawings of the Thames frost fair of 1814:







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  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)


An arch of London Bridge as it appeared in the Great Frost 1814. Drawn Feby. 5th. 1814.


Gambols on the river Thames, Feby. 1814"; shows a frost fair in the region of Blackfriars Bridge. To the right in the foreground is a waterman with skittles and behind him a man's wooden leg has caught in the ice. To the right is a printing press and in the centre a woman has slipped on the ice next to a fiddler playing music as a couple dances. © City of London

Edited by Coast
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  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
  • Location: Eastbourne, East Sussex (work in Mid Sussex)
great piccs and post folks

2009 here we come!

Blimey, its SACRA's secret 'inside' member! ;)

great reading! thanks Mr D and Coast :)

I bet you remember it Mick, how was the mutton? :)

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  • Location: SE London
  • Location: SE London
Blimey, its SACRA's secret 'inside' member! :)

I bet you remember it Mick, how was the mutton? :)

fatty ;)

yeah certainly brings back memories. and with a memory like a mousetrap (always empty) i need as many reminders as i can get :)

oh i see. it was feb 5th 1814, not nearly quarter past six on feb 5th 2007 ;)

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  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
  • Location: just south of Doncaster, Sth Yorks
Blimey, its SACRA's secret 'inside' member! ;)

come on sport that was supposed to be a secret!

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  • Location: Skirlaugh, East Yorkshire
  • Location: Skirlaugh, East Yorkshire
Temperatures and wind direction at Tottenham

What is absolutely astonishing there is that in the period 26th Dec - 20th Mar there were just 9 days when there wasnt a temperature at or below zero. Recent years have struggled to provide 9 air frosts during that time!

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  • 14 years later...

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