Ice on the Thames

Tower Bridge - ice on the Thames Dec 1894_800x600

Above: View from in front of the Tower of London, looking SE. The turret on the far right is part of Courage’s Brewery, in Bermondsey, now converted into luxury apartments.

There are times, during the winter months in London, when we often feel the cold. We all know that there are plenty of places on the planet that are much colder but, if you are suffering from the effects of a particularly frosty or snowy day, that is little comfort.

The two pictures in this article should make you grateful that you were not living at the time of the winter of 1894-95. London experienced relatively mild temperatures until the middle of December 1894 and then the cold set in – lasting into January of the following year, with even colder temperatures in February.

Great lumps of ice were to be seen on the shore, when the tide had gone out. Similar icy scenes were photographed at Woolwich and even further into the mouth of the Thames.

Limehouse - ice on the Thames Feb 1895 (sepia)_800x600

Above: View looking up-river (west) at Limehouse. It is not possible to know the exact location for certain. It could be from a wharf on the east side of Limekiln Dock. The photographer was obviously on the shore, probably with his camera on a tripod.

While on the subject of the Thames freezing, you may have see pictures of frost fairs on the Thames, beside the City of London. Until old London Bridge was replaced by the new bridge, in the 1830s, the Thames up-river of the bridge was more likely to freeze because there was less salt in the water. Old London Bridge, with its 19 narrow arches prevented tidal water from getting through the bridge and, with less salt in the water, the Thames froze over more easily, every now and again. After the 1830s the Thames above London Bridge never froze over again. The last so-called ‘Frost Fair’ was held in 1814. It began on 1 February, and lasted four days. With a new bridge, the water could flow more freely and the likelihood of the water freezing over was reduced.


This entry was posted in /Berm, /Thames, Limehouse. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ice on the Thames

  1. Max Emil says:

    Fascinating to read about the old London Bridge, through its construction preventing sea/salt water to be as high in salt concentration upriver, hence the Thames freezing over more often in the years prior to 1830. p.s. (in 3rd paragraph was the word “use” intended to read “ice”?)


  2. Yes, its quite a long but very interesting story. The winter of 1894-95 was exceptionally cold and was probably the last time that ice in those amounts was to be seen on the lower Thames. Thanks for the correction, its greatly appreciated. The word has been amended.


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