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Frozen London exhibition


Frozen London Exhibition: January - May 2013

Scientists sometimes refer to the years between the 16th and early 19th century as the 'little Ice Age'. During the coldest spells, it was common for rivers, lakes and ponds to freeze over across London. The Thames, for instance, is thought to have frozen over as many as 16 times between 1683 and 1814, and in 1895 large ice floes developed causing major problems for traffic on the river. But how did this extreme cold affect the average Londoner, and how did it impact on daily life?

Cold winters were met with much enthusiasm by those who enjoyed the great Frost Fairs or took part in skating or sledding, but away from such popular distractions winters could also be hard. Many occupations, such as that of the Thames watermen, were effectively curtailed by bad weather, sometimes for periods of up to seven weeks. When the price of staple items, including coal, and general foodstuffs such as corn increased during the freezes, there were serious effects on the health and mortality of ordinary Londoners.

Drawing inspiration from a number of original documents held at London Metropolitan Archives, this exhibition used personal accounts and a wide selection of images, to explore the story of a frozen London - how it was improved by the excitements it afforded, but also how it was affected by the hardships it created.

This exhibition is now closed.

Discover More

You can still see many of the pictures from the exhibition on Collage - The London Picture Archive

13 December 2012
Last Modified:
29 August 2019