This day in London’s history: on 24 November 1434 the River Thames froze over. This was a not uncommon occurrence between the 15th and early 19th century. On this occasion, according to B Lambert, author of ‘The history and survey of London and its environs’:
“In the year 1434 a great frost began on the 24th of November, and held till the 10th of February, following ; whereby the river Thames was so strongly frozen, that all sorts of merchandizes and provisions brought into the mouth of the said river were unladen, and brought by land to the city.”
In later years, there were Frost Fairs held on the Thames; the most memorable of these was in the winter of 1683-1684, known as The Great Freeze, when the Thames was frozen for two months. According to the diarist John Evelyn, “The frost continuing more and more severe, the Thames before London was still planted with booths in formal streets, all sorts of trades and shops furnished and full of commodities, even to a printing press.”
Even more recently (in 2010) the River Wye froze; in December of that year the ice started to melt and crack into pieces that floated downstream.
This day in London’s history: on the 13th of November 1002, the St Brice’s Day massacre took place. Following a number of years of Danish invasion, King Ethelred the Unready ordered the killing of Danes throughout England; the Danes continued to have a strong presence in England and could be the inspiration behind the nursery rhyme ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’.
By 1014 the Danes had invaded and captured London (causing Ethelred to flee the country) and Denmark and Norway were in conflict. Olaf, King of Norway, sent a fleet up the Thames, which was stopped at the heavily Danish-fortified London Bridge. Not easily thwarted, Olaf had his ships covered with protective wicker work, moved in close to the bridge, attached ropes to the piles and sailed off, bringing the whole thing – complete with armed Danes – down.
It is, unfortunately, possible that this story is not entirely true. However, it sounds good and as such is considered to be the basis for the nursery rhyme.
Olaf also gave his name to Tooley Street in London: the name was recorded as St Olave’s Street at the end of the 16th century; it then became St Tooley’s Street, later Towles Street, and eventually Tooley Street.