A wintry tale from the past…
Snowflakes gently glide to the ground; white snow covered trees are glinting in the faded sunlight.
I start to walk along a track through the trees listening out for any sounds. It’s really quiet apart from a few birds singing. The occasional thud of snow falling from the branches breaks the eerie silence.
As I make each step forward, I hear thick snow crunch beneath my feet. My hands feel bitterly cold; the breath in front of my face nearly freezes.
A spectacular scene of ice unfolds into the distance. A frozen river bed fills the expanse. On the horizon is a bridge, which stretches across the river.
Rustic tents and strangely clothed people bustle about a huge outdoor market. The market’s taking place directly on the ice. I walk over onto the river bed and join the crowd.
By one tent I see the excited faces of the crowd, waiting at a printers. People are gathering around and watching a man print a special ticket.
Where can I be?
Before I went to sleep I had been reading about the frost fairs that took place on the river Thames in London, during the 18th century.
The year is 1716. I realise, I was looking at old London Bridge and the river must be the Thames. It looks so strange without the familiar stone embankment on either side.
Old London Bridge was quite a differently proportioned bridge to the current one. It was built on nineteen arches supported by small piers, these in turn slowed the flow of the river which is why it often froze.
The tickets I saw being printed were actually printed, using a woodcut, on the ice as a souvenir for visitors. They were dated and read ‘Printed on the ice on the River Thames.’
I had left a window open, which is why I felt cold and had fallen asleep still holding the book I had been reading.
For more fascinating facts and information about London in the past have a look at the Museum of London website.