Monday, September 10, 2007

It was cold that year!

Following on rather unseasonably from my last post about pack ice in the Channel off Plymouth, I thought to have a look at what else went on, and now liberate from 'EEBO' this image of the London Frost Fair of that winter.

It was published by Joseph Moxon, a globe maker, type founder, and the first tradesman to be elected to the Royal Society.

The view (click on the image to get it at a more readable scale) is orientated south, with London Bridge at the left. Moxon has done a rough map of the iced-over Thames, with its temporary roads, shopping mall, and diversions. Ignoring the land topography, he has transferred from the Thames a series of vignettes of the typical activities of the frost fair. Just to the right of the dedicatory cartouche is 'Futtball Play', vividly depicted. Bottom right just above the hat of the figure holding the scale bar is 'Cock Throwing' (which clearly involved throwing items at a live bird).

To the right of the central thoroughfare 'Temple Street' is a 'Whirl Sledg', which apparently involved a gang of operators spinning a sledge in circles on a rope. Hard to tell from the picture, but a fixed point perhaps drilled into the ice might have helped. 'Skate sliding' is taking place on the river, mere 'sliding' for the unequipped, and an ice yacht is bottom left.

'Webb's bull' is being baited amid a circle of spectators, with no evident fencing off of the action from the crowd watching, and there is 'Fox Trialing' with dogs below the cartouche.I also spy a muster of soldiers, games of nine pins and pigeon holes, and a whole lot of catering going on: I wonder about the solitary strolling ladies too, whether they were just sight-seers, or looking for clients.

The surprising amount of attention to printing presses (top right) and 'Letter Founding' (to the right of the central way across the ice) is, I suppose, Moxon giving prominence to his own profession operating out there.

Moxon addresses the Lord Mayor of London: 'My Lord, that so remarkable a Frost as this Winter has produced may as much as may be known to Posterity; I have taken the pains to survey the appearance of the Frozen river of Thames from London Bridge to Fox Hall...'

A Map of the river Thames. Merrily cald Blanket Fair as it was frozen in the memorable-year 1683/4. : Describing the booths, foot-paths, coachs, sledges, bull baitings and other remarks upon that famous river.

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