The Great Fire of London was one of London’s greatest disasters, starting on 2 September 1666 at Thomas Farrynor’s bakery and rapidly spreading through Pudding Lane Street and Fish Street Hill. London’s medieval layout, full of highly combustible structures made its spread more rapid.
It was caused by a fire in a bakery
On September 2, 1666, Thomas Farynor’s bakery in Pudding Lane caught fire, due to carelessness on part of one of his maids. Although initially small in scale, its fire quickly spread as strong east winds encouraged flames to leap from house to house feeding off of pitch and tar used to seal buildings in London.
The fire was catastrophic, destroying over 13,000 tightly packed wooden houses, 87 churches, and St Paul’s Cathedral in five days of burning – leaving over 85% of city residents homeless and even scorching the Thames River! Furthermore, its intensity reached Royal Exchange and Baynard’s Castle fortresses before abating.
People were struggling to save their belongings from the fire, and people flocked down the River Thames as they attempted to escape via boat or fled for safety in fields surrounding London. This tragedy, known as “The Great Fire”, would go on to become one of the worst disasters ever witnessed by Britain.
Only six people were officially reported dead, but the damage was so great that it took 50 years to rebuild the city.
People were eager to find someone responsible. A baker insisted he put out the fire before going to sleep, confident it must have been some devious scheme. Sir Thomas Bloodworth, Mayor of the city, claimed it could have been done by “a woman”.
Rumors quickly spread about who was responsible for setting the fire. England was engaged in war with the Dutch, so many believed it must have been caused by French or Catholic terrorists – those that looked foreign were often attacked on the streets or put behind bars for arson.
Fire was miraculously contained before reaching Whitehall Palace or Charles II’s court, thanks to architect Christopher Wren who also rebuilt St Paul’s Cathedral following its destruction. Christopher Wren designed London Monument which commemorates Great Fire of London 202 feet high monument is situated on Monument Street; today, it remains one of the city’s most important structures as well as iconic landmark.
It spread quickly
On Sunday, September 2, 2010 began London’s Great Fire of London at a bakery located in Pudding Lane. Thomas Farriner accidentally forgot to turn off his oven, sending sparks flying onto some dry flour sacks which caught on fire quickly causing nearby buildings to catch on fire as well. Additionally, strong winds helped spread the fire further engulfing London with smoke.
People began fleeing their homes quickly in fear, packing belongings into carts and racing towards the Thames where boats could transport them across it to safety. Some even jumped from rooftops as fire spread quickly enough to even melt lead off of St Paul’s Cathedral!
People were forced to put out fires in 1666 due to a lack of an organized fire brigade; therefore they tried to douse flames by spraying water from small water squirters at them; however, these attempts proved futile as there had been no rain for weeks and most London houses and buildings were constructed of wooden construction and covered with pitch, close together and filled with many warehouses filled with inflammable materials nearby.
Fire quickly spread in this dry city due to the heat of summer 1666 and strong winds. Commercial activity was taking place at this center of commerce; houses were constructed using wood with thatched roofs. Also, no rain had fallen for weeks prior to its outbreak; as a result, this period was considered exceptionally dry for the city’s residents.
After the Great Fire of London spread through London’s streets, government leaders took immediate steps to prevent future fires by setting up eight bases called fire posts; each post employed 130 men. By Monday afternoon, their success in keeping St Dunstan-in-the East safe from flames had reduced significantly and by Thursday it had been contained – however not before 13200 houses and 87 churches had been destroyed, six people killed, many left homeless, clean up process long and difficult, yet eventually Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt London and one of Britain’s greatest historical events ever witnessed by human history! The Great Fire of London remains one of Britain’s greatest events in history and remains an iconic event in its national story today.
It killed six people
The Great Fire of London was one of the deadliest disasters in British history, destroying up to one-third of London and leaving over 70 thousand homeless. Yet miraculously only six deaths were officially recorded despite such extensive devastation; at first many believed this figure to be miraculous; now however it’s believed more may have passed. Additionally, its devastating nature inspired an enormous response from society; charities were set up and money donated in aid of those impacted by it; even France at war sent aid donations which helped rebuild London.
Thomas Farriner in Fish Yard off Pudding Lane had two bakehouses that caught fire, quickly spreading across London’s east end streets and quickly consuming houses and businesses along its path, burning through wooden frames and melting lead roofing sheets on roofs as it scorched along. Within days, it had destroyed 13,200 houses, 87 churches, City authorities buildings as well as the Guildhall and 52 livery company halls – total destruction was around 14,200 buildings destroyed and 55 lives lost due to this conflagration.
Initial panic forced most to focus on fleeing rather than fighting the fire. People gathered their belongings and ran from their homes – often up staircases – as they were afraid of being trapped inside, attacked by looters or criminals, or losing jobs and incomes as a result of this firestorm.
On the fourth day, however, things began to improve significantly. As winds subsided and allowed firefighting brigades to create effective firebreaks with their brigade gear; additionally, Tower of London Garrison used gunpowder to devastate properties and halt its spread – most fires had been under control by midday of September 5.
Though many believe only six people were killed, there have been conflicting accounts regarding how many actually perished in the fire. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary at the time that only “few” people perished; other writers have suggested otherwise.
It led to some positive changes
The Great Fire of London remains one of the most devastating events in British history, yet its effects were manyfold. People were forced to make their homes more fireproof by replacing wooden walls with brick ones and increasing fire resistance by increasing wind resistance. Furthermore, its effects led the City Corporation to implement improved fire prevention techniques and build more fire stations – these measures helped mitigate further loss of lives due to fire.
Although the fire destroyed approximately half of the city, only six people died as a direct result. Many more went unrecorded as it spread through poorer areas where those unable to afford escape camped out on open spaces; starvation and disease became prevalent as five days passed while it burned.
After the fire, many surviving buildings were rebuilt or altered afterward; architect Christopher Wren created a monument in their honor as well. Additionally, it resulted in changes to governance such as increased scrutiny of City Corporation finances that helped improve them in the long run.
Though the fire brought about some positive social and political changes, it also compounded existing religious and political tensions. Londoners held most foreigners responsible for starting it; this surge of anti-foreigner racism increased tensions between Anglican churchgoers and religious nonconformists as well as increased the influence of anti-Catholic politicians.
Though the fire did not result in major rebellion against Charles II, it did exacerbate tensions within his government. Charles had several social and economic challenges to face such as legacy from English Civil War, religious dissent and inadequate sources of government revenue; furthermore his courtiers wanted to take advantage of it for personal gain.
As the fire spread, people were terrified. Samuel Pepys, a civil servant and diarist, described people staying in their houses “until the flames touched them” before fleeing or jumping from one pair of stairs to another or burying or loading up possessions onto carts or boats as they attempted to flee from the flames.