The random—and not so random—musings of a quirky Regency romance writer.
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

~Regency Wednesday~ Frost Fair, 1814

This is the first Regency Wednesday post of the new year. Here's my promise to you: There will be a Regency Wednesday post every week this year, even if it's just a simple word definition. I think that's a feasible goal, don't you? 

To start us off, let's learn a bit about the Frost Fairs of London. 

Frost Fair on the River Thames, in 1814 
In London the Thames River froze several times between 1400 and the early part of 1800. In the early 17th Century, vendors set up tables to hawk their wares and the first official Frost Fair was born. The final one  on the Thames took place in 1814. 

The frost began the end of December 1813 and by the end of February 1814 the river was frozen solid. To demonstrate the safety of the ice, an elephant was led across the river. The vendors set up their tables and what would be the last Frost Fair on the Thames began. People paid exorbitant prices for things they could get much cheaper before or after the fair, printing presses were set up and special items printed right there on the ice were offered. Attendees paid an entry fee and stayed on the ice 'til all hours, enjoying the novelty. The freeze lasted only days this time, unlike other freezes that lasted weeks and months.

1831 was the end of even the possibility of a Frost Fair on the Thames. Along with the replacement of the old London Bridge whose arches did not allow for the best water flow, the climate grew milder and further changes to the river itself would not allow for a solid freeze.

And what would the discerning Regency lady wear to a Frost Fair such as this? Perhaps a beautiful red, fur-lined ensemble similar to the one shown here. I found this in the December 1807 edition of La Belle Assemblée. Though this was the fashion for January 1808, thus several years before the 1814 Frost Fair, I can still imagine a lady wearing something similar to this beautiful creation.

A Morning Walking, or Carriage Habiliment. 

A simple breakfast robe of Indian muslin, or cambric; with a plain high collar, and long sleeve. Plain chemisette front, buttoned down the bosom. A Calypso wrap of morone velvet, or kerseymere, trimmed entirely round with  white ermine, or swansdown. Spanish hanging-sleeve, suspended from the back, and falling over the left shoulder, terminating in a round point below the elbow. This ornament is lined throughout with skin the same as the trimming. A mountain hat of white imperial beaver, or fur, tied under the chin with a ribband the colour of the coat. Gloves and shoes of American green, or buff. Cropt hair, confined with a band, and  curled over the left eye.

*For further reading: The Frost Fairs: the Frozen River Thames in London (Web History of England); River Thames frost fairs (Wikipedia); Famous Frosts and Frost Fairs in Great Britain (1887, Google eBook, page 61)
**Images taken from Famous Frosts and Frost Fairs in Great Britain, Wikimedia Commons, and La Belle Assemblée, 1807

♥Happy reading, writing, and blogging!!♥

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♫♪ Vertical Horizon ~ You Say

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