“made up of brittle and slippery things”
By ANONYMOUS, 1684
Blanket-Fair, or the History of Temple Street: being a relation of the merry pranks plaid on the River Thames during the great frost, to the tune of Packington’s Pound.
- Author: ANONYMOUS
- Publication place: [London]
- Publisher: Printed for Charles Corbet, at the Oxford Arms in Warwick lane
- Publication date: 1684.
- Physical description: Broadside, printed in two columns.
- Dimensions: 290 by 185mm. (11.5 by 7.25 inches).
- Inventory reference: 18209
“In roast-beef and brandy much money is spent,
And booths made of blankets, that pay no ground-rent;
With old fashion’d chimneys the rooms are secur’d,
And the houses from danger of fire are insur’d.
The chief place you meet,
Is call’d Temple-street,
If you do not believe me, then you may go and see’t;
From the Temple the students do thither resort,
Who were always great patrons of revels and sport.
Here damsels are handled, like nymphs in the bath,
By gentlemen-ushers, with legs like a lath;
They slide to a tune, and cry give me your hand,
When the tottering fops are scarce able to stand.
Then with fear and with care
They arrive at the fair,
Where wenches sell glasses and crackt earthen-ware;
To show that the world and the pleasures it brings,
Are made up of brittle and slippery things“
The River Thames has been known to freeze over on several occasions, especially during the “Little Ice Age” of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, upon which the inhabitants of London took to the solid ice for business and pleasure. The most important of these “Frost Fairs” occurred in 695, 1608, 1683–4, 1716, 1739–40, 1789, and 1814. In 1684, during the Great Freeze of 1683–4, which was the longest in London’s history and during which the ice reached depths of around 28cm, the diarist John Evelyn recorded the attractions of the Frost Fair:
“Streetes of Boothes were set upon the Thames… all sorts of Trades and shops furnished, & full of Commodities… Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple, and from several other stairs too and fro, as in the streets, sleds, sliding with skates, bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cooks, tippling and other lewd places, so that it seemed to be a bacchanalian triumph, or a carnival on water”.
Many of London’s printmakers capitalized on this carnival atmosphere by producing souvenirs of the great event. These generally consisted of depictions of the fair, often accompanied by a short verse. This print, which may have been produced by printmaker William Faithorne, shows the mysterious figure of Erra Pater standing on the banks of the frozen Thames, upon which various activities and attractions are labelled, including “a coach crossing the ice” and “roasting ox”. In the background extends London’s skyline, already impressive at the end of the seventeenth century with multiple turrets and towers interspersed among the shorter buildings.
- BEIN BrSides By6 1684