Ice and Rainbows at Christmas

The Rev Francis Kilvert wrote in his diary for Christmas Day 1870 in the village of Draycot Cerne, Wiltshire. That morning was so cold that Kilvert had an unusual bath.

‘As I lay awake praying in the early morning I thought I heard a sound of distant bells. It was intense frost.”

“I sat down in my bath upon a sheet of thick ice which broke in the middle into large pieces whilst sharp points and jagged edges stuck all around the sides of the tub like chevaux de frise, not particularly comforting to the naked thighs and loins, for the keen ice cut like broken glass.

“The ice water stung and scorched like fire. I had to collect the floating pieces of ice and pile them on a chair before I could use the sponge and then I had to thaw the sponge in my hands for it was a mass of ice.”

And on that cold, crisp Christmas morning in 1870 Kilvert walked to Sunday School in bright sunlight when he saw an astonishing phenomenon. He wrote that “the road sparkled with millions of rainbows, the seven colours gleaming in every glittering point of hoar frost.”

PS Chevaux de frise may be a new term to you. They are a form of defence in battle:

Chevaux de Frise | Medieval, Scene design, Fortification
Chevaux de frise – imagine Kilvert in his bath!

About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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