Quoted from Wikipedia: During the Great Frost of 1683–84, the worst frost recorded in England, the Thames was completely frozen for two months, with the ice reaching a thickness of 11 inches (28 cm) in London. Solid ice was reported extending for miles off the coasts of the southern North Sea (England, France and the Low Countries), causing severe problems for shipping and preventing the use of many harbours. Near Manchester, the ground was frozen to 27 inches (69 cm), in Somerset, to more than 4 feet (1.2 m).
The frieze contains an inscription that reads (two lines per slab):
Behold the Liquid Thames frozen o’re,
That lately Ships of mighty Burthen bore
The Watermen for want of Rowing Boats
Make use of Booths to get their Pence & Groats
Here you may see beef roasted on the spit
And for your money you may taste a bit
There you may print your name, tho cannot write
Cause num’d with cold: tis done with great delight
And lay it by that ages yet to come
May see what things upon the ice were done
The inscription is based on handbills, printed on the Thames during the frost fairs.
Credits and Attributions:
Wikipedia contributors, “River Thames frost fairs,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=River_Thames_frost_fairs&oldid=820904368 (accessed January 19, 2018).
Frost Fair on the River Thames near the Temple Stairs, by Thomas Wyke ca.1683-1684 via Wikimedia Commons (scan from FT magazine, 2007-09-30) [Public domain]