Origins of Skating
Before passing on to the beginning of modern Figure-Skating let me give a few examples of frosts whose severity has caused them to be especially noted and which enabled keen skaters to practice and improve. There was a great frost of five months in A.D.220 and another in 250 when the Thames was frozen hard for nine weeks. These were followed by terrific frosts covering all Europe in 359 and 508, whilst in A.D.859 heavy carriage traffic crossed the Adriatic and in 923 the Thames was open to wheeled traffic for trade and the transport of goods for thirteen weeks.
In the January number of Leisure Hour (1891) in an article by R. Heath we read that the clearing of forests, the draining of marshes and other results of civilisation have led to a diminution of the rigours of winter throughout Europe. That half the population of France died of cold in the great winter of 974/5 when even the Bosphorus was frozen. There followed the 120 day winter of 987/8, whilst in 1035 on Midsummer day the temperature was below freezing-point. In 1410, for fourteen weeks, the Thames was once more open to horse and cart traffic; and again in 1564 and 1570, whilst in 1572 the Dutch Navy was ice-bound at Amsterdam. Winters seem to have continued very much colder than nowadays: for example, in Vienna in 1691 it was so cold that wolves entered the city. On January 25, 1795, a great fair and carnival was held on the Thames on what is described as the coldest day ever known in Britain, with the temperature eight degrees below zero and with 300 vessels ice-bound in the port. There were great frosts in protracted, bitter cold in 1802 and 1805, and, in 1812-13, the ice on the Serpentine was so strong that we are told Lord Ranelagh drove upon it in a Russian sledge drawn by two Arabian horses. In 1819-20 the ice on the Thames at Woolwich was five feet thick from November to March, and in parts near Lambeth it measured twelve feet. So the records continue telling of winters far more severe than anything in Western Europe today-1822, 1827, 1829, 1835; and then, in a letter from Professor Sedgwick of Cambridge in 1841, we read: January 30. From Ely I went to Whittlesea and saw thousands, and, I think, tens of thousands, whirling on the ice. There were certainly 10,000 persons assembled one day on Whittlesea Mere to see a match. .
Part 9
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Ladies Ice Hockey about 1890