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A provincial frost fair: urban space sociability and spectacle in Shrewsbury during the great frost of 1739

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Midland History
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)43-61
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/05/18
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article uses a contemporary print, antiquarian histories and newspapers to examine the frost fair that took place on the River Severn at Shrewsbury during the great frost of 1739. By comparing the Shrewsbury frost fair with others that were organised on the Rivers Thames, Ouse and Tyne (for which printed handbills survive), it demonstrates how Shrewsbury’s mirrored other frost fairs held during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It included printing activities, promenading and sociability, as well as spectacles, notably Robert Cadman a ‘flying man’ who entertained the crowds, before plummeting to his death. The paper highlights an aspect of eighteenth-century culture by showing the transient nature of entertainments, urban spaces and forms of sociability and spectacle and argues that historians should consider frost fairs in localities outside London as events which provide insights into provincial urban culture.