The Thames during the Great Frost

Jan Griffier II1739

Guildhall Art Gallery & London's Roman Amphitheatre

Guildhall Art Gallery & London's Roman Amphitheatre
United Kingdom

View from near Whitehall of the river Thames completely frozen in 1739. The Frost Fair is on the left hand-side while figures inspect the incomplete piers of Westminster Bridge on the right hand-side. In the distance, there is a view of the City of London including St Paul's Cathedral and spires of the City churches. 1739 had one of the coldest winters of all time with temperatures dropping to -9C. Until the demolition of old London Bridge in 1832, the Thames flowed more freely, thus in severe winters it sometimes froze over and frost fairs would be held on the thick ice. On 31 January 1740, the Gentleman’s Magazine recorded that ‘The Thames floated with rocks and shoals of Ice; rising everywhere in hillocks and huge Rocks of Ice and Snow; of which scene several painters took sketches. Booths, Stalls and Printing-Presses were erected, and a Frost-Fair held on it’. The Gentleman’s Magazine account also notes that the ice was not completely safe at times: ‘Multitudes walk’d over it, and some were lost by their Rashness’.
Jan Griffier moved from Amsterdam to London after 1666. According to H. Walpole, he bought a yacht on the Thames and travelled among many cities in Britain painting several views and sketches.


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