The cold weather of February 1895 became known simply as the Frost. The Illustrated Police News described it as 'terribly severe', asking 'what must be the intense suffering of those who are poor and out of work?' Temperatures of -24C were recorded in Buxton; the Thames froze over, with ice floes six or seven feet deep in places. Barges and smaller boats were trapped in the ice, leaving watermen and port workers without employment. Many people died of hypothermia, while impassable railways and canals meant dwindling coal supplies.
Even attempts to make the most of the weather posed grave dangers, as is illustrated by this account in the Illustrated Police News:
A man named Edward Blake was drowned in the Welsh Harp waters at Hendon last week. Some girls had ventured on the ice of the lake between the eastern side of the Edgware Road and the Midland Railway viaduct, and the ice broke, immersing two of them. In trying to rescue them Blake was drowned in sight of his brother, who did succeed in saving the females, but failed to rescue Blake. The deceased leaves a wife and several children.
It was perhaps small consolation to Blake's grieving family that his heroism would be recorded in the Watts Memorial:
EDWARD BLAKE DROWNED WHILE SKATING AT THE WELSH HARP WATERS, HENDON, IN THE ATTEMPT TO RESCUE TWO UNKNOWN GIRLS, FEB 5 1895.
Image: Rotherhithe in the Frost of 1895, (c) National Maritime Museum