Why does the Thames no longer freeze?

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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.

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