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. http://www.amazon.com/Frozen-Thames-Helen-Humphreys/dp/0385342810 And of course I have to recommend my own book, The Gilded Lily! Here’s the Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSXtKFVGGV8
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!
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