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Great Fire of London

The Great Fire of London was a major fire that swept through the City of London from September 2-5, 1666, and resulted more or less in its destruction. (Before this fire, the fire of 1212 which destroyed a large part of the City was known by the same name.)

The fire started in Pudding Lane at the house of Thomas Farrinor1, a baker to King Charles II. It is likely that the fire started because Farrinor forgot to extinguish his oven before retiring for the evening and that some time shortly after midnight, smouldering embers from the oven set alight some nearby firewood. Farrinor was woken by the fire at around 1AM. He managed to escape the burning building, along with his family, by climbing out through an upstairs window. The baker's housemaid failed to escape and became the fire's first victim.

Within an hour of the fire starting, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, was woken with the news. He was unimpressed however, declaring that 'A woman might piss it out'.

Most buildings in London at this time were constructed of highly combustible materials (wood, straw, etc.), and sparks emanating from the baker's shop fell onto an adjacent building. Fanned by a strong wind, once the fire had taken hold it swiftly spread. The spread of the fire was helped by the fact that buildings were built very close together with only a narrow alley between them. The fire consumed some 13,200 houses and 87 churches, among them St. Paul's Cathedral, but only 9-16 people are known to have died.

Table of contents
1 The aftermath and consequenses

The aftermath and consequenses

The fire had the beneficial effect of killing many of the rats which were responsible for the spread of the Great Plague. The fire had a marked and varied impact on English society. See Charles II of England, Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys, Ursula Southeil.

After the fire, a rumour began to circulate that the fire was part of a Catholic plot. A simple-minded French watchmaker named Robert "Lucky" Hubert, confessed to being an agent of the Pope and starting the fire in Westminster. He later changed his story to say that he had started it at the bakery in Pudding Lane. He was convicted, despite overwhelming evidence that he could not have started the fire, and was hanged at Tyburn.

Christopher Wren was put in charge of re-building the city after the fire. His original plans involved rebuilding the city in brick and stone to a grid plan with continental piazzas and avenues. But because many buildings had survived to basement level, legal disputes over ownership of land ended the grid plan idea. From 1667, Parliament raised funds for re-building London by taxing coal, and the city was eventually rebuilt to its existing street plan. but out of brick and stone and with improved sanitation and access. Christopher Wren also re-built St Paul's Cathedral 11 years after the fire.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London, designed by Wren and Robert Hooke marks the site where the fire started, near the northern end of London Bridge.

There had been much prophesy of a disaster befalling London in 1666, since in Arabic numerals it included the number of the Beast and in Roman numerals it was a declining-order list (MDCLXVI). Walter Gostelo wrote in 1658 "If fire make not ashes of the city, and thy bones also, conclude me a liar forever!…the decree is gone out, repent, or burn, as Soddom and Gomorrah!" It seemed to many, coming after a civil war and a plague, Revelation's third horseman.

Further Reading


- 1 Farrinor's name is variously spelled Farriner, Farryner or Farynor