Thursday, November 29, 2012

HF Virtual Tours: Guest Post and G!ve@way from Deborah Swift

Today, I'm excited to have Deborah Swift here to talk about Frost Fairs, a very cool element in Swift's The Gilded Lily. Oh, and at the end of the post, enter to win a copy of The Gilded Lily (open internationally!!!)

Frost Fairs – Inspiration for The Gilded Lily

Behold the wonder of this present age
A frozen river now becomes a stage

When I first read about The Frost Fairs on the frozen Thames I knew I wanted to include them in my new novel THE GILDED LILY. I wondered what my two country girls, Sadie and Ella Appleby, who had never been outside their small village, would make of this spectacle. Also I liked the idea that the surface of the ice would mirror the precariousness of the girls’ existence in London at that time. Visually it is a stunning setting too, as our limited pictures from the period show.

In the Little Ace Age of the 17th century the River Thames used to freeze upstream of London Bridge and Londoners used to create stalls with blankets and wooden props or oars from the boats. These markets were referred to as ‘blanket fairs.’

Everyone and anyone took to the ice, including royalty and commoners – in one year Charles II paraded his troops on the Thames side by side with the courtesans and taverners who took advantage of the carnival atmosphere to ply their trade. This was one of the ideas I found most fascinating, that class and wealth barriers broke down on the newly-named ‘Freezeland Street’ which was a sort of no-man’s land cutting through London, owned by no-one and used by everyone.

In the first flush of enthusiasm when Puritan rule was over, and the people knew the King would be restored to the throne, England was in a mood to celebrate, even in such freezing conditions. The scene was described by 17th century diarist John Evelyn as ‘a Bacchanalian triumph of carnival on the water'.

When researching Frost Fairs for The Gilded Lily I used 17th century chapbooks as reference sources, one of which had a wonderful long poem on it describing the various activities, (see picture). It tells us about the entertainment - ‘Here is a Lottery and Musick too’, but also tells us there were blood sports such as fox hunting, bear baiting and cock fighting. Other pleasanter activities included rides on boats adapted for the purpose with runners, ice hockey, skating, acrobats and tumblers and puppet booths. I also enjoyed using the dutch paintings of Hendrick Avercamp for reference.

With the weather being so cold there was a brisk trade in Ale and Brandy, and braziers were set up so food could be purchased; Hot codlins, Pancakes, Duck, Goose and Sack. Though apparently things were more expensive on the ice as traders took the chance to push up their prices,

‘What you can buy for Three-Pence on the shore,
Will cost you four pence on the Thames or more.’

A lovely book about the Frost Fairs right through the ages – a little book of short meditations I can highly recommend is The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys. And of course I have to recommend my own book, The Gilded Lily! Here’s the Trailer

Many thanks to Meg for hosting me!


I am happy to be able to give away a copy of The Gilded Lily (open internationally). Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Such interesting info. :) And so much fodder for interesting stories...

  2. Interesting! I hadn't heard of Frost Fairs before. My favorite winter activity is staying inside covered in a warm quilt. :)

  3. I love walking in the bright sunshine and did cross country skiing many years ago when I lived in a northern clime. many thanks.

  4. I like to organe the house. I'll do mini-makeovers here and there to keep things fresh.

    GFC: Na

  5. My favorite winter activity is to curl up with a blanket, a cup of cocoa and a good book. Thanks for the great post and the giveaway.


  6. My favorite activity in the winter is staying inside and reading a good book. I guess the other thing I like to do is to drive around and look at Christmas lights but that is only for the holiday season of course. Thank you for the chance to win this book.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  7. Favorite winter activity is reading by the fire with some coffee!

  8. Drinking hot chocolate in front of a fire

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  10. I love snuggling up with a warm blanket and a great book while it is snowing outside and also sipping a mug of hot chocolate.


  11. I lived in the frozen north for many years, one favorite would be hot-tubbing.

  12. I read The Frozen Thames a while ago and was intrigued to find out more of the times when the Thames had frozen over. I would have loved to go skating there. My favorite winter activity is being in front of a roaring fire reading with a glass of brandy and a good historical fiction book.

  13. I really enjoyed the Frozen Thames and would love to win a copy of the Gilded Lily! Thanks for the chance! rexmoy (at) gmail (dot) com

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  15. It was the images here that captured my attention for this book.

    My favourite thing to do in winter, other than taking photos and attending Christmas concerts, etc, is to stay indoors curled up with a throw and a good book.

    Thanks for the contest which I have entered.


  16. I live in Florida. It's still in the 70s here, so I don't really have winter-y activities :(

  17. I love to snow tube. It's a blast flying down the hill trying to race the people I'm with.

    Thank you for the chance for The Gilded Lily.


    1. This book has been on my wishlist for a while. I am looking forward to reading it. I love the images you posted, too! My favorite winter activity is downhill skiing! (blog:


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