Scientists sometimes refer to the years between the 16th and early 19th century as the 'little Ice Age'. During the coldest spells, it was common for rivers, lakes and ponds to freeze over across London. The Thames is thought to have frozen over as many as 16 times between 1683 and 1814, and in 1895 large ice floes developed causing major problems for traffic on the river. It is this cold period and the novels written during this time by authors such as Charles Dickens, which are believed to be responsible for popular perceptions of London as covered in snow over the Christmas period.
Cold winters were met with enthusiasm by those who enjoyed the great Frost Fairs or took part in skating or sledding, but away from these popular distractions winters could be hard. Many occupations, such as that of the Thames watermen, were held back by the bad weather, sometimes for periods of up to seven weeks. When the price of staple items, including coal and general foodstuffs, increased during the freezes, there were serious effects on the health and mortality of ordinary Londoners.