The Fire Of London 1666

On Sunday morning, the 2nd September 1666, the destruction of medieval London began

Accidental fires were common in 17th-century London. Open fires burned in houses, shops and workshops, sellers kindled them in braziers in the streets. Timber was the most common building material, and straw was laid on floors and stored in stables and outhouses.

In the early hours of the morning of Sunday, 2 September, fire broke out ? in the king's own bakery in Pudding Lane in the City. Pudding Lane was a narrow street of timbered buildings, many of them housing cook shops. It backed on to Fish Street Hill, which led to London Bridge, itself lined with buildings made of plaster and wood. Once fire took hold in Thomas Farryner's bakery kitchen that night, it spread swiftly.

A journeyman living above the bakery raised the alarm. The household jumped to safety from the roof, except for one maid, who became the fire's first victim. Fanned by a stiff east wind, the fire burned fiercely, spreading to buildings in Thames Street in the south, St Botolph's Lane in the east and Fish Street Hill. Many of the buildings housed storerooms full of combustible materials such as oil, pitch, hemp and tar. These fuelled the fire, and the heat was so intense that no one could get close enough to fight the flames.

The standard procedure to stop a fire from spreading had always been to destroy the houses on the path of the flames, creating ?fire-breaks?, to deprive a fire from fuel. Lord Mayor Bludworth, however, was hesitant, worrying about the cost of rebuilding. By the time a Royal command came down, carried by Samuel Pepys, the fire was too out of control to stop.

The Trained Bands of London were called in to demolish houses by gunpowder, but often the rubble was too much to be cleared before the fire was at hand, and only eased the fire's way onward. The fire blazed unchecked for another three days, until it halted near Temple Church. Then, it suddenly sprang to life again, continuing towards Westminster.

The Duke of York had the presence of mind to order the Paper House demolished to create a fire break, and the fire finally died down.

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