September 2, 2016 marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. It was a devastating four days for Londoners, with four-fifths of the city being destroyed by one simple mistake. Here are five facts about the Great Fire that you may not know.
From Pudding Lane to Pye Corner
The fire started at a bakery on Pudding Lane. It took four days to extinguish because of the fire-fighting efforts of the day—local people with buckets of water! When it was extinguished, the last flames are said to have been on Pye Corner.
The Papist Movement Was Blamed
While people now know that the fire started in a bakery and it was Thomas Farriner who was the owner, but the fire wasn’t blamed on him or his actions (or lack of!) at the time. The fight between Protestantism and Catholicism was still ripe in the country, and the blame was placed on this because the 100,000 people affected needed a scapegoat. It was said to be a Catholic plot to bring down the country in 1678.
The monument put up afterwards even blamed the papist movement. It took 150 years for this blame to be removed, and more than 300 years for bakers to officially apologize for the fire and the blame to be completely shifted to Farriner.
A Man Was Hanged for the Fire
A watchmaker, Robert Hubert, admitted to starting the fire on purpose at the end of September 1666. Historians know that he didn’t and even the judge and jury didn’t reportedly believe that he was guilty, but he was hanged for it anyway. It seems that he just wanted his life to be over, and the jury—which included three Farriners—helped him to accomplish that.
Not All the Homes Were Destroyed By Fire
While 13,200 homes were destroyed during the four days, not all of them were destroyed because of the fire. King Charles II needed to act quickly to stop the fire from spreading, so he ordered homes be destroyed to create breakers. The Lord Mayor of London had previously told fire fighters that this couldn’t happen.
The fire breakers didn’t work as hoped. The wind during the time was so strong that the fire was able to jump between 20 houses. It also didn’t help that the country had faced a 10-month long drought. The gap of 20 houses wouldn’t have been what it is today, either. Homes were built narrow and as close together as possible. They were also made of wood—the perfect material for a fire.
It was after the Great Fire of London that building work changed. As the people lived in tents in fields outside London, builders used brick to reconstruct homes.
The Redeveloped St. Paul’s Cathedral was Completed Destroyed
St. Paul’s Cathedral was being redeveloped at the time, but the fire destroyed all work. The lead roof melted and started streaming down the streets. Even the bricks within the building exploded from the heat. The whole place had to be rebuilt from the ground up after the event.
This was the height of the fire. After this, the wind changed direction and made it possible to get the blaze under control.
The Great Fire of London wasn’t something people expected to happen. During 1666, people were still afraid of the Great Plague that had spread across the city the year before. It was because of this that lessons in building work were learned, even if an imaginary papist plot was to blame.
The Great Fire of London monument still stands close to the north end of London Bridge. It is simply known as The Monument now, and was originally crafted by Sir Christopher Wren. Most recently renovated and repaired between 2007 and 2009 (it has had to go through various renovations over the centuries), it stands 202ft high, which is the distance between the monument and Pudding Lane.
Map of Burning London: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_London#/media/File:Great_fire_of_london_map.png
Fire of London: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_London#/media/File:Great_fire_of_london_map.png
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