PortCities London

Freak weather and the port

The big freeze of 1895
Although the tidal Thames could no longer freeze over after the opening of the new London Bridge, severe winters could still play havoc with the working of the port.

The big freeze in the Pool of London

The Pool of London in the frost, 1895.
View full size imageThe Pool of London in the frost, 1895, by Arthur Robertson. © NMM
The last big freeze in London came in February 1895, when a prolonged cold spell created huge ice floes on the Thames.

The lighters and barges on which the port depended were immobilized.

The Thames frozen at Rotherhithe with Tower Bridge in the distance.
View full size imageThe big freeze of 1895 at Rotherhithe. © NMM
As only larger steamers could pass through the river, the wharves in the Pool came to a standstill.

St Paul's from the river. Winter (1895).
View full size imageSt Paul's from the river. Winter (1895). © NMM
Although the ice on the Thames created an eerie and unforgettable sight, the disruption in the port deprived thousands of work.




Greenwich, Blackwall and Bugsby's Reaches

The big freeze in Greenwich Reach.
View full size imageThe big freeze of 1895 in Greenwich. © NMM
Further down the river, photographers captured the bleak landscape of the ice-filled river. In Greenwich, local optician W. Hudson photographed the ice in Greenwich Reach.



The big freeze in Long Reach

Side view of the Atlas hospital ship during the big freeze of February 1895.
View full size imageThe Atlas hospital ship at Long Reach during the big freeze of 1895. © NMM
The ice was so bad that the river ambulance service to the smallpox ships in Long Reach was disrupted.

Smallpox patients were marooned in London for over two weeks before they could be taken to the hospital ships. Had an epidemic broken out at the time, London would have faced a grave crisis.


The big freeze at Grays

The Exmouth at Grays, 10 Jan 1905.
View full size imageThe Exmouth at Grays in Essex. © NMM 
Even at Grays in Essex, where the Thames was almost a kilometre (nearly half a mile) wide, the ice put a stop to most river traffic.




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