Great Britains wonder.jpg

Great Britains Wonder: or, Londons Admiration: Being a true representation of a prodigious frost, which began about the beginning of Decemb. 1683. and continued till the fourth day of February following. And held on with such violence, that men and beasts, coaches and carts, went as frequently thereon, as boats were wont to pass before. There was also a street of booths built from the Temple to Southwark, where were sold all sorts of goods imaginable, … It being the wonder of this present age, and a great consternation to all the spectators (Printed by M. Haly, and J. Miller, and sold by Robert Walton, at the Globe on the north-side of St Pauls-Church, near that end towards Ludgate; where you may have all sorts and sizes of Maps, Coppy-Books, and Prints, not only English, but Italian, French and Dutch. And by John Sellar on the west-side of the Royal-Exchange. 1684). Broadside with woodcut. Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature

During the Great Frost in the winter of 1683/84, the Thames River was completely frozen for over two months. This wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Between 1408 and 1814, there were twenty-four winters in which the Thames was completely frozen. Venders moved in and Frost Fairs were held as soon as the ice was thick enough. Virginia Woolf recorded such a winter in Orlando:

“The Great Frost was, historians tell us, the most severe that has ever visited these islands. Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground. At Norwich a young countrywoman started to cross the road in her usual robust health and was seen by the onlookers to turn visibly to powder and be blown in a puff of dust over the roofs as the icy blast struck her at the street corner. The mortality among sheep and cattle was enormous.” Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), Orlando: a Biography (New York: C. Gaige, 1928). Copy 597 of 800. Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2004-3966N