The Great Freeze February 12th 1895

Skating on the Serpentine by Lucien Davis
Antique wood-engraved print. Illustrated London News double page from 2 March 1895 (print owned by K Flude)

London, February 12. There is no abatement of the abnormally cold weather which has prevailed in northern Europe for the last week. The Upper Thames is frozen over, and huge blocks of ice breaking away from the mass are floating down, the river, causing much damage to the smaller shipping craft. Water traffic is consequently at a complete standstill. Many cases of death from cold and exposure are reported, the privation and distress in the east end of the city being particularly severe. The cold is so intense that birds are found frozen to death on the branches of the trees, and thousands are perishing. The severe weather has also directly caused considerable mortality, a number of deaths from exposure having been reported among postmen, omnibus drivers, cabmen, and labourers.

Contemporary Newspaper quotation on February 12th 1895 quoted by Isle of Dogs Life blog

Winter of 1895 Limehouse to left, Tower of London to right. Images from Isle of Dogs blog.

For more details and contemporary newspaper accounts read the Isle of Dogs blog. 1895 was the culmination of a decade of particularly cold winters (and for some the end of the so-called Little Ice Age. On the 11th February the coldest day in British History was recorded at Braemar at −27.2 °C. February 1895 was the second coldest on record, with the lowest minimum temperatures on record. Shipping in the biggest port in the world was stopped. Many workers were laid off, and had to resort to what were then called ‘soup kitchens’ and now ‘food banks’. Winter death rates were said to be doubled, with people dying in the street and in unheated homes.

Record minima were set for these dates in February 1895:

  • 7th: −21.7 °C or −7.1 °F
  • 8th: −25.0 °C or −13.0 °F
  • 9th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
  • 10th: −25.6 °C or −14.1 °F
  • 11th: −27.2 °C or −17.0 °F
  • 12th: −20.6 °C or −5.1 °F
  • 13th: −21.9 °C or −7.4 °F
  • 14th: −21.7 °C or −7.1 °F
  • 16th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
  • 17th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
  • 18th: −23.9 °C or −11.0 °F
  • 19th: −22.2 °C or −8.0 °F

Source Wikipedia.

On the flip side people resorted to ponds around London particularly the Serpentine which had 6 inches of ice and 50,000 skaters, with speed skating competitions.

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:


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