AMATEUR meteorologist Harry Kershaw from Manchester reckons this winter could be the coldest for 270 years and he says the Thames may freeze over. Judging from the weather over the last couple of weeks, he may not be too far out.
Harry, 84, uses something called comparative meteorology to predict weather patterns. It was developed by the Germans during the Second World War and involves comparing current weather with that going back up to 300 years and picking similar patterns to predict what’s coming next – often, with uncannily accurate results.
But just hearing about Harry’s prediction got me thinking about the possibility of the Thames freezing.
It used to happen on a fairly regular basis, of course, between the 15th and 19th centuries and there are many accounts of ‘frost fairs’ being staged in the tideway in central London with merry-go-rounds, coach and fours being driven across the ice and all manner of food and fancy goods stalls actually springing up on the frozen surface of the river with literally hundreds of people walking about on it. There were even reports of bull-baiting and football matches being played.
During the so-called Great Frost of 1683–84, the worst frost recorded in England,[ the Thames was completely frozen for two months, with the ice reaching a thickness of 11 inches (28 cm) in London. Solid ice was reported extending for miles off the coasts of the southern North Sea.
Apparently the river froze over on December 20 and stayed frozen until February 6!
During the last frost fair – which took place in 1814, some enterprising gentleman even walked an elephant across the Thames close to Blackfriars Bridge just to demonstrate how thick the ice was.
Even in our own times, the river in our area has been seen to freeze solid. My colleague Barry Dix tells me that in 1963, a car was driven onto the frozen surface of the Thames at Shepperton (not recommended, by the way). Anyone else remember that?
Hopefully, this recent cold snap will prove to be the worst of the winter out of the way. But just in case old Harry’s right, perhaps local merchants ought to start thinking about how they’re going to capitalise on a frozen Thames…
I’M grateful to Alan Woolford for pointing out to me that local sailor Richard Mitchell from Addlestone has been presented with one of the Royal Yachting Association’s most prestigious awards, an RYA Lifetime Commitment Award, by HRH the Princess Royal, President of the RYA at the organisation’s annual awards ceremony held in London.
In proposing Richard for the award, Littleton Sailing Club said of him: “Without Richard’s time and commitment to the club, repairing and maintaining the site, in particular major projects such as dredging, slipway construction and pontoon rebuilding, there would not be a Littleton Sailing Club.”
After the event Richard said: “I’m quite overawed to receive the award, I wasn’t expecting it at all. The ceremony was fantastic. I took my daughter along and we thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Sarah Treseder, RYA Chief Executive says “The RYA is delighted to make this award in recognition of Richard’s enthusiasm, promotion of our sport and many years’ contribution to the Thames Valley’s sailing scene.”
Well done, Richard and well done Littleton for nominating him.