Blanket Fair

This woodcut depicts a Blanket Fair on the frozen Thames in 1684. The detail is lovely. Click on the image to enlarge

The ballad which follows describes the Blanket Fair itself:

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.

Come listen a while (though the Weather be cold)
In your Pockets & Plackets your Hands you may hold.
I’ll tell you a Story as true as ’tis rare,
Of a River turn’d into a Bartholmew Fair.
Since old Christmas last
There has bin such a Frost,
That the Thimes has by half the whole Nation bin crost.
O Scullers I pity your fate of Extreams,
Each Land-nan is now become free of the Thames.

‘Tis some Lapand Acquaintance of Conjurer Oates,
That has ty’d up your Hands & imprison’d your Boats.
You know he was ever a friend to the Crew
Of all that to Admiral Iames has bin true.
Where Sculls once did Row
Men walk to and fro,
But e’re four months are ended ’twill hardly be so.
Should your hopes of a thaw by this weather be crost,
Your Fortunes vould soon be as hard as the Frost.

In Roast Beef and Brandy much money is spent
In Booths made of Blankets that pay no Ground-rent,
With old fashiond Chimneys the Rooms are secur’d,
And the Housed from danger of Fire ensur’d.
The chief place you meet
Is call’d Temple Street,
If you do not believe me, then you may go see’t.
From the Tempe the Students do thither resort,
Tho were always great Patrons of Revels and sport.

The Citizen comes with his Daughter or Wife,
And swears he never saw such a sight in his life:
the Prentices starv’d at home for want of Coals
catch them a heat do flock thither in shoals;
While the Country Squire
Does stand and admire
The wondrous conjunction of Water and Fire.
it comes an arch Wag, a young Son of a Whore,
lays the Squires head where his heels were before.

The Rotterdam Dutchman with fleet cutting Scates,
To pleasure the crowd shews his tricks and his feats,
Who like a Rope-dancer (for all his sharp Steels)
His Brains and activity lie in his Heels.
Here all things like fate
Are in slippery state,
From the Sole of the Foot to the Crown of the Pate.
While the Rabble in Sledges run giddily round,
And nought but a circle of folly is found.

Here Damsels are handed 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 fell Glasses and crakt Earthen ware;
To shew that the World, and the pleasures it brings,
Are made up of brittle and slippery things.

A Spark of the Bar with his Cane and his Muff,
One day went to treat his new rigg’d Kitchinstuff,
Let slip from her Gallant, the gay Damsel try’d
(As oft she had done in the Country) to slide,
In the way lay a stump,
That with a dam’d thump,
She broke both her Shoostrings and crippl’d her Rump.
The heat of her Buttocks made such a great thaw,
She had like to have drowned the man of the Law.

All you that are warm both in Body and Purse,
I give you this warning for better or worse,
Be not there in the Moonshine, pray take my advice,
For slippery things have bin done on the Ice
Maids there have been said
To lose Maiden-head,
And Sparks from full Pockets gone empty to Bed·
If their Brains and their Bodies had not bin too warm,
‘Tis forty to one they had come to less harm.

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  • December 20, 2011 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

    You were right, I did enjoy the image of Blanket Fair, The detail is brilliant. Loved the Ballad too, reminded me of Mother Goose by Jethro Tull. ‘As I did walk by Hampstead Fair, came upon Mother Goose and I turned her loose cause she was screaming’ Something like that.

  • December 9, 2011 - 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Hopefully the newly-added ballad will explain. A Frost Fair and a Blanket Fair appear to be more or less similar events. The Blanket Fair appears to have had retail booths made from blankets. Such a charming idea!

  • December 9, 2011 - 3:35 pm | Permalink

    What exactly constitutes a Blanket Fair? How does it differ from a Frost Fair? Whatever it’s called, you are right – the detail is amazing!

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