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Great Frost, 1814.
The severest and most remarkable frost in England of late years, commenced in December, 1813, and generally called "the Great Frost in 1814,'' was preceded by a great fog, which came on ■with the evening of the 27th of December, 1813. It is described as a darkness that might be felt. Cabinet business of great importance had been transacted, and lord Castlereagh left London about two hours before, to embark for the continent. The prince regent, (since George IV.) proceeding towards Hatfield on a visit to the marquis of Salisbury, was obliged to return to Carlton-house, after being absent several hours, during which period the carriages had not reached beyond Kentish-town, and one of the outriders fell into a ditch. Mr. Croker, secretary of the admiralty, on a visit northward, wandered likewise several hours in making a progress not more than three or four miles, and was likewise compelled to put back. It was "darkness that might be felt."
On most of the roads, excepting the high North-road, travelling was performed with the utmost danger, and the mails were greatly impeded.
On the 28th, the Maidenhead coach coming to London, missed the road near Hartford bridge and was overturned. Lord Ha warden was among the passengers, and severely injured.
On the 29th, the Birmingham mail was nearly seven hours in going from the Post-office to a mile or two below Uxbridge, a distance of twenty miles only: and on this, and other evenings, the short stages in the neighbourhood of London had two persons with links, running by the horses' heads. Pedestrians carried links or lanterns, and many, who were not so provided, lost themselves in the most frequented, and at other times wellknown streets. Hackney-coachmen mistook the pathway for the road, and the greatest confusion prevailed.
On the 31st, the increased fog in the metropolis was, at night, truly alarming. It required great attention and thorough knowledge of the public streets to proceed any distance, and persons who had material business to transact were unavoidably compelled to carry torches. The lamps appeared through the haze like smalt randies. Careful hackney-coachmen got off the box and led their horses, while others drove only at a walking
pace. There were frequent meetings of carriages, and great mischief ensued. Foot passengers, alarmed at the idea of being run down, exclaimed, "Who is coming V—" Mind 1" — " Take care!" &c. Females who ventured abroad were in great peril; and innumerable people lost their way.
After the fogs, there were heavier falls of snow than had been within the memory of man. With only short intervals, it snowed incessantly for forty-eight hours, and this after the ground was covered with ice, the result of nearly four weeks continued frost. During this long period, the wind blew almost continually from the north and north-east, and the cold was intense. A short thaw of about one day, rendered the streets almost impassable. The mass of snow and water was so thick, that hackney-coaches with an additional horse, and other vehicles, could scarcely plough their way through. Trade and calling of all kinds in the streets were nearly stopped, and considerably increased the distresses of the industrious. Few carriages, even stages, could travel the roads, and those in the neighbourhood of London seemed deserted. From many buildings, icicles, a yard and a half long, were seen suspended. The water-pipes to the houses were all frozen, and it became necessary to have plugs in the streets for the supply of all ranks of inhabitants. The Thames, from London Bridge to Blackfriars, was completely blocked up at ebb-tide for nearly a fortnight Every pond and river near the metropolis was completely frozen.
Skating was pursued with great avidity on the Canal in St. James's, and the Serpentine in Hyde-park. On Monday the 10th of January, the Canal and the Basin in the Green-park were conspicuous for the number of skaters, who administered to the pleasure of the throngs on the banks; some by the agility and grace of their evolutions, and others by tumbles and whimsical accidents from clumsy attempts. A motley collection of all orders seemed eager candidates for applause. The sweep, the dustman, the drummer, the beau, gave evidence of his own good opinion, and claimed that of the belles who viewed his movements. In Hyde-park, a more distinguished order of visitors crowded the banks of the Serpentine. Ladies, in robes of the richest fur, bid defiance to the wintry winds, and ventured on the frail .surface. Skaters, in gieat numbers, of first-rate notoriety, executed some of the most difficult movements of the art, to universal admiration. A lady and two officers, who performed a reel with a precision scarcely conceivable, received applause so boisterous as to terrify the fair cause of the general expression, and occasion her to forego the pleasure she received from the amusement. Two accidents occurred: a skating lady dislocated the patella or kneepan, and five gentlemen and a lady were submerged in the frosty fluid, but with no other injury than from the natural effect of so cold an embrace.
On the 20th, in consequence of the great accumulation of snow in London, it became necessary to relieve the roofs of the houses by throwing off the load collected upon them. By this means the carriage-ways in the middle of the streets were rendered scarcely passable; and the streams constantly flowing from the open plugs, added to the general mass of ice.
Many coach proprietors, on the northern and western roads, discontinued to run their coaches. In places where the roads were low, the snow had drifted above carriage height. On Finchley-common, by the fall of one night, it lay to a depth of sixteen feet, and the road was impassable even to oxen. On Bagshot-heath and about Esher and Cobham the road was completely choked up. Except the Kent and Essex roads, no others were passable beyond a few miles from London. The coaches of the western road remained stationary at different parts. The Windsor coach was worked through the snow at Colnbrook, which was there sixteen feet deep, by employing about fifty labourers. At Maidenhead-lane, the snow was still deeper; and between Twyford and Reading it assumed a mountainous appearance. Accounts say that, on parts of Bagshot-heath, description would fail to convey an adequate idea of its situation. The Newcastle coach went off the road into a pit upwards of eight feet deep, but without mischief to either man or horse. The middle North-road was impassable at Highgate-hill.
On the 22d of January, and for some time afterwards, the ice on the Serpentine in Hyda-park bore a singular appearance, fiom mountains of snow which sweepers had collected together in different situations. The spaces allotted fox
the skaters were in circles, squares, and oblongs. Next to the carriage ride on the north side, many astonishing evolutions were performed by the skaters. Skipping on skates, and the Turk-cap backwards, were among the most conspicuous. The ice, injured by a partial thaw in some places, was much cut up, yet elegantly dressed females dashed between the hillocks of snow, with great bravery.
At this time the appearance of the river Thames was most remarkable. Vast pieces of floating ice, laden generally with heaps of snow, were slowly carried up and down by the tide, or collected where the projecting banks or the bridges resisted the flow. These accumulations sometimes formed a chain of glaciers, which, uniting at one moment, were at another cracking and bounding against each other in a singular and awful manner with loud noise. Sometimes these ice islands rose one over another, covered with angry foam, and were violently impelled by the winds and waves through the arches of the bridges, with tremendous crashes. Near the bridges, the floating pieces collected about mid-water, or while the tide was less forcible, and ranged themselves on each other; the stream formed them into order by its force as it passed, till the narrowness of the channel increased the power of the flood, when a sudden disruption taking place, the masses burst away, and floated off. The river was froaen over for the space of a week, and a complete Frott Fair held upon it, as will be mentioned presently.
Since the establishment of mail-coaches correspondence had not been so interrupted as on this occasion. Internal communication was completely at a stand till the roads could be in some degree cleared. The entire face of the country was one uniform sheet of snow; no trace of road was discoverable.
The Post-office exerted itself to have the roads cleared for the conveyance of the mails, and the government interfered by issuing instructions to every parish in the kingdom to employ labourers in reopening the ways.
In the midland counties, particularly on the borders of Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, the snow lay to a height altogether unprecedented. At Dunchureli, a small village on the road to Birmingham, through Coventry, and for a few miles round that place, in all directions, the drifts exceeded twenty-four feet, and no tracks of carriages or travellers could be discovered, except on the great road, for many days.
The Cambridge mail coach coming to London, sunk into a hollow of the road, and remained with the snow drifting over it, from one o'clock to nine in the morning, when it was dragged out by fourteen waggon Iiorses. The passengers, who were in the coach the whole of the time, were nearly frozen to death.
On the 26th, the wind veered to the south-west, and a thaw was speedily discernible. The great fall of the Thames at London-bridge for some days presented a scene both novel and interesting. At the ebbing of the tide, huge fragments of ice were precipitated down the stream with great violence, accompanied by a noise, equal to the report of a small piece of artillery. On the return of the tide, tbey were forced back; but the obstacles opposed to their passage through the arches were so great, as to threaten a total stoppage to the navigation of the river. The thaw continued, and these appearances gradually ceased.
On the 27th, 28th, and 29th, the roads and streets were nearly impassable from floods, and the accumulation of snow. On Sunday the 30th a sharp frost set in, and continued till the following Saturday evening, the 5th of February.
The Falmouth mail coach started from thence for Exeter, after having proceeded a few miles was overturned, without material injury to the passengers. With the assistance of an additional pair of horses it reached the first stage; after which all endeavours to proceed were found perfectly useless, and the letters were sent to Bodmin by the guard on horseback. The Falmouth and Plymouth coach and its passengers were obliged to remain at St. Austell.
At Plymouth, the snow was nearly four feet high in several of the streets.
At Liverpool, on the 17th of January, Fahrenheit's thermometer, in the Athcnsum, stood at fifteen degrees; seven below the freezing point. From the ice accumulated in the Mersey, boats could
not pass over. Almost all labour without doors was at a stand.
At Glouceiter, Jan. 17. The severity of the frost had not been exceeded by any that preceded it. The Severn was frozen over, and people went to Tewkesbury market across the ice on horseback. The cold was intense. The thermometer, exposed in a north-eastern aspect, stood at thirteen degrees, nine below the freezing point. On the eastern coast, it stood as low as nine and ten; a degree of cold unusual in this county.
Bristol, Jan. 18. The frost continued in this city with the like severity. The Floating Harbour from Cumberland basin to the Feeder, at the bottom of Avonstreet, was one continued sheet of ice; and for the first time in the memory of man, the skater made his appearance under Bristol-bridge. The Severn was frozen over at various points, so as to bear the weight of passengers.
At Whitehaven, Jan. 18, the frost had increased in severity. All the ponds and streams were frozen; and there was scarcely a pump in the town that gave out water. The market was very thinly attended-, it having been found in many parts impossible to travel until the snow was cut.
At Dublin, Jan. 14, the snow lay in a quantity unparalleled for half a century. In the course of one day and night, it descended so inconceivably thick and rapid, as to block up all the roads, and preclude the possibility of the mail coaches being able to proceed, and it was even found impracticable to send the mails on horseback. Thus all intercourse with the interior was cut off, and it was not until the 18th, when an intense frost suddenly commenced, that the communication was opened, and several mail bags arrived from the country on horseback.
The snow in many of the narrow streets of Dublin, after the footways had been in some measuie cleared, was more than six let. It was nearly impossible for any carriage to force a passage, and few ventured on the hazardous attempt. Accidents, both distressing and fatal, occurred. In several streets and lanes the poorer inhabitants were literally blocked up in their houses, and in the attempt to go abroad, experienced every kind of misery. The number of deaths from cold and distress were greater than at any other period, unless at the time of the plague. There were eighty funerals on the Sunday
before this date. The coffin-makers in gardens on the east side, from the cro Cook-street could with difficulty com- to the bridge, and invaded the house plete their numerous orders: and not a behind by the doors and windows, e x few poor people lay dead in their wretched tinguishing the fires in a moment, lifting rooms for several days, from the impos- and tumbling the furniture, and gushias sibility of procuring assistance to convey out at the front doors with incredible them to the Hospital-fields, and the great rapidity. Its principal inroad was b y difficulty and danger of attempting to the end of a bridge. Here, while the open the ground, which was very uneven, houses stood as a bank on either side, it and where the snow remained in some came crashing and roaring up the street parts, twenty feet deep.
in full career, casting forth, within a few From Canterbury, January 25, the yards of the cross, floats of ice like millcommunication with the metropolis was stones. The houses on the west side not open from Monday until Saturday were in the same situation with those on preceding this date, when the snow was the east. At one place the water was cut through by the military at Chatham- running on the house-eaves, at another hill, and near Gravesend; and the stages it was near the door-head, and midway proceeded with their passengers. The up the street, it stood three feet and a mail of the Thursday night arrived at half above the door. Had it advanced Canterbury late on Friday evening, the five minutes longer in this direction, the bags having been conveyed part of the whole village must have been inundated. distance upon men's shoulders. The bags of Friday and Saturday night arrived
During this frost a great number of together on Sunday morning about ten
the fish called golden maids, were picked o'clock.
up on Brighton beach and sold at good Dalrymple, North Britain, January
prices. They floated ashore quite blind, 29.-Wednesday, the 26th, was an epoch
ch having been reduced to that state by the ever to be remembered by the inhabitants of this village. The thaw of that and the preceding day had opened the Doon, formerly “ bound like a rock," to a con- Annexed are a few of the casualties siderable distance above this; and the consequent on this great frost. A woman melting of the snow on the adjacent hills was found frozen to death on the Highswelled the river beyond its usual height, gate-road. She proved to have been a and burst up vast fragments of ice and charwoman, returning from Highgate, congealed snow. It forced them forward where she had been at work, to Pancras. with irresistible inpetuosity, bending A poor woman named Wood, while trees like willows, carrying down Skels crossing Blackheath from Leigh to the ton-bridge, and sweeping all before it. village of Charlton, accompanied by her The overwhelming torrent in its awful two children, was benighted, and missed progress accumulated a prodigious mass her way. After various efforts to extri. of the frozen element, which, as if in cate herself, she fell into a hole, and was wanton frolic, it heaved out into the fields nearly buried in the snow. From this, on both sides, covering acres of ground however, she contrived to escape, and many feet deep. Alternately loading again proceeded; but at length, being and discharging in this manner, it came completely exhausted, and her children to a door or two in the village, as if to benumbed with cold, she sat down on apprize the inhabitants of its powers. the trunk of a tree, where, wrapping her The river having deserted its wonted children in her cloak, she endeavoured by channel, endeavoured to make its grand loud cries to attract the attention of some entry by several courses successirely in passengers. Her shrieks at length were Saint Valley, and finding no one of them heard by a waggoner, who humanely sufficient for its reception, took them waded through the snow to her assistance, altogether, and overrunning the whole and taking her children, who seemed in holm at once, appeared here in terrific a torpid state, in his arms, he conducted grandeur, between seven and eight o'clock her to a public-house; one of the infants in the evening, when the moon retreated was frozen to death, and the other was behind a cloud, and the gloom of night recovered with extreme difficulty. added to the horrors of the tremendous As some workmen were clearing away scene. Like a sea, it overflowed all the the snow, which was twelve feet deep, at
Kipton, on the border of Northamptonshire, the body of a child about three years old was discovered, and immediately afterwards the body of its mother. She was the wife of a soldier of the 16th regiment, returning home with her infant after accompanying her husband to the place of embarkation. It was supposed they had been a week in the snow.
There was found lying in the road leading from Longford to Upham, frozen to death, a Mr. Apthorne, a grazier, at Coltsworth. He had left Hounslow at dusk on Monday evening, after having drank rather freely, and proposed to go that night to Marlow.
On his return from Wakefield market, Mr. Husband, of Holroyd Hall, was frozen to death, within little more than a hundred yards of the house of his nephew, with whom he resided.
Mr. Chapman, organist, and master of the central school at Andover, Hants, was frozen to death near Wallop, in that county.
A young man named Monk, while driving a stage-coach near Ryegate, was thrown off the box on a lump of frozen snow, and killed on the spot.
The thermometer during this intense frost was as low as 7° and 8° of Fahrenheit, in the neighbourhood of London. There are instances of its having been lower in many seasons, but so long a continuance of very cold weather was never experienced in this climate within the memory of man.
On Sunday, the 30th of January, the immense masses of ice that floated from the upper parts of the river, in conse
3uence of the thaw on the two preceding ays, blocked up the Thames between Blackfriars and London Bridges; and affoided every probability of its being frozen over in a day or two. Some adventurous persons even now walked on different parts, and on the next day, Monday the 31st, the expectation was realized. During the whole of the afternoon, hundreds of people were assembled on Blackfriars and London Bridges, to see people cross and recross the Thames on the ice. At one time seventy persons were counted walking from Queeuhithe to the opposite shore. The frost of Sunday night so united the vast
mass as to render it immovable by the tide.
On Tuesday, February 1, the river presented a thoroughly solid surface over that part which extends from Blackfriars Bridge to some distance below Three Crane Stairs, at the bottom of Queenstreet, Cheapside. The watermen placed notices at the end of all the streets leading to the city side of the river, announcing a safe footway over, which attracted immense crowds, and in a short time thousands perambulated the rugged plain, where a variety of amusements were provided. Among the more curious of these was the ceremony of roasting a small sheep, or rather toasting or burning it over a coal fire, placed in a large iron pan. For a view of this extraordinary spectacle, sixpence was demanded, and willingly paid. The delicate meat, when done, was sold at a shilling a slice, and termed " Lapland mutton. There were a great number of booths ornamented with streamers, flags, and signs, and within them there was a plentiful store of favourite luxuries with most of the multitude, gin, beer, and gingerbread. The thoroughfare opposite Three Crane Stairs was complete and well frequented. It was strewed with ashes, and afforded a very safe, although a very rough path. Near Blackfriars Bridge, however, the way was not equally severe; a plumber, named Davit, having imprudently ventured to cross with some lead in his hands, sank between two masses of ice, and rose no more. Two young women nearly shared a similar fate; they were rescued from their perilous situation by the prompt efforts of two watermen. Many a fair nymph indeed was embraced in the icy arms of old Father Thames;—three young quakeresses had a sort of semi-bathing, near London Bridge, and when landed on terra-firma, made the best of their way through the Borough, amidst the shouts of an admiring populace. From the entire obstruction the tide did not appear to ebb for some days more than one half the usual mark.
On Wednesday, Feb. 2, the sports were repeated, and the Thames presented a complete "Frost Fair." The grand "mall" or walk now extended from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge; this was named the " City-road," and was lined on each side by persons of all descriptions. Eight or ten printing presses were erected