The Thames once froze regularly, the first time we have evidence of it happened in 250 when the Romans were still there. In 1536 King Henry VIII rode from Greenwich to Westminster by sleigh on the Thames. Since then this has happened regularly, but not as often as is now believed.
On average, it was once every ten years, with a few exceptions. In any case, from about 1650 to the beginning of the 19th century there was the Little Ice Age and therefore it was relatively common that the Thames froze.
During that time the Thames froze in 15 winters and almost always for a short time. The only exception was the great frost of 1683-84 when the Thames remained frozen for 2 months in a row when the ice of the Thames in London was 28 cm thick.
During the Little Ice Age, Frost Fairs were common, or fairs and markets that were held on ice. In London there used to be a few, but not as many as in other European cities.
The last Frost Fair in London was held in 1814 for 4 days and even an elephant passed over the frozen Thames near Blackfriars Bridge.
The phenomenon of the “Little Ice Age” caused many consequences that influenced the daily life of Londoners. In the worst frosts, such as that of 1683-84, the lakes, rivers and parts of the sea around the southern coasts of England froze. This stopped all trade on the water, especially on the Thames, that was London’s main form of travel and transportation.
In 1608, the Thames froze for six weeks and we have the first officially documented Frost Fair. It is reported in an extremely rare pamphlet printed for the occasion presumably written by Thomas Dekker, the famous Elizabethan pamphlet writer.
Subsequently, it was not only the end of the Little Ice Age, which prevented another frozen river, but two large constructions. The first was the demolition of the old London Bridge, which like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence was an old medieval bridge with shops and houses and which slowed down the current of the river.
The new bridge built in 1820 allowed the river to flow faster. The other was the construction of the Victoria, Albert and Chelsea Embankment, or the embankments that took up considerable space from the river, making it flow even faster. Flowing faster means that it has less time to cool down and freeze.
The levees were built by Sir John Bazalgette, the same man who built the London sewers. It was no coincidence that the embankments had been built in part with the material excavated during the works for the sewers (the rest came from the Metropolitan Line tunnels and stone imported from Cornwall).
To understand how the embankments or embankments have changed the geography of the area you have to think that the Strand once practically bordered the Thames. In any case, in 1900 the Thames froze again briefly for one last time.
For the first time you can visit Buckingham Palace’s gardens
For the first time, the famous Queen’s Gardens at Buckingham Palace will be opened. Normally only the Royal Family and those invited to the Queen’s parties can see them. The reason for this decision is that this summer there will be no traditional opening of part of the building because of the pandemic and to compensate they open the gardens.
Visitors will be able to wander the garden paths and experience the calm of this garden in the heart of London. You will see Horse Chestnut Avenue, the plane trees planted by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the famous lake with its bee island of Buckingham Palace. You can also have a picnic on one of the lawns. The gardens will be open from 9 July to 19 September but there are also weekend tours in April and May. You can book your tickets here.
The statue remembering the children of Kindertransport
You might have seen the bronze monument at the entrance to Liverpool Street Station. You may not know what it is. The statue depicts the children of the Kindertransport which brought over 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland to the United Kingdom.
We can see a little girl sitting on a suitcase with a teddy bear in her hand. The boy to her right holds a satchel and a violin case. The older girl behind him looks away as they wait to be picked up and separated.
The names of the cities on a stretch of track behind them show the places of origin of the children: Cologne – Hanover – Nuremberg – Stuttgart – Düsseldorf – Frankfurt – Bremen – Munich, Gdansk – Wroclaw – Prague – Hamburg – Mannheim – Leipzig – Berlin – Vienna
Between December 1938 and September 1939, nearly 10,000 Jewish children arrived on Liverpool Street via the port of Harwich and the Netherlands. Following the attacks on synagogues and German Jews instigated by the Nazi government at the Kristallnacht from 9 to 10 November 1938, the British government allowed children under 17 to immigrate, provided they found a foster family and a benefactor willing to give a deposit of 50 pounds.
The first to come were nearly 200 children from an orphanage that had been burned down in Berlin. The German authorities allowed children to carry a suitcase and a bag, with no valuables and only a photo. No adult escorts and no train station farewells were allowed.
10,000 children were separated and ended up in different places in Britain and few saw their parents again, many of whom died in concentration camps. A good number of the children decided to stay in Britain at the end of the war.
The strong tornado that destroyed London Bridge
Not many of you will know this story, but read on to find out about this extraordinary event that happened in 1091. Extraordinary not so much for having a tornado in London, but for its power.
On the morning of October 17, 1091, it seemed normal and no one was expecting a tornado. Not any tornado, but the strongest one recorded in London. In fact, it was probably a F4 or even F5 on the Fujita scale. Incredibly destructive with winds reaching 370 km per hour!
London was then almost entirely made of wood. There was just the White Tower of the Tower of London which was about ten years old and a few masonry churches. A tornado of this type blew almost everything away. Including London Bridge at the time that was partly destroyed by the tornado but also by the Thames current, which carried it away. It was still new having been built by William the Conqueror after 1066.
The famous church of St Mary-le-Bow was badly damaged, with the roof being thrown a certain distance violently. With so much force that the nine-meter-long beams were driven into the ground and only about a meter remained outside.
The river flooded the surrounding areas and not many buildings remained standing. London Bridge was rebuilt soon after, the main bridge connecting London with the southern parts of the country. The new bridge also had a short life, in 1140 it was destroyed by a fire.
Concerts coming up!
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