The Great Fire consumes LudgateOn 2nd September 1666 fire broke out in a bakery in Pudding Lane in the City of London. Fanned by a breeze, it spread throughout the whole city, burning for four days until it finally burned itself out. More than 13,000 buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral, were destroyed. Attempts to fight it failed. There were neither water pumps nor hoses, only buckets or squirting devices. The only effective way was to stop the fire spreading rather than put it out. Firebreaks were created by blowing up buildings using gunpowder ahead of the fire’s path, preventing the flames leaping from house to house. But by the time the fire was over, although only a handful of people perished, around 70,000 of the City of London’s 80,000 citizens had lost their homes in the blaze.
Fanned by an eager wind, the fire has quickly consumed the bakery and spread to nearby buildings. With so much dry wood, the...Read More >>Fanned by an eager wind, the fire has quickly consumed the bakery and spread to nearby buildings. With so much dry wood, the whole of the city is soon alight. As flames claim their homes, the city’s inhabitants flee in panic. At the quayside they crowd on to boats. But there are neither water pumps nor hoses, only buckets or squirting devices. Gunpowder is used to blow up buildings and create spaces between them to stop the fire spreading.
London Bridge before the Great Fire. London Bridge was the only link between the City and the south side of the River Thames in...Read More >>London Bridge before the Great Fire. London Bridge was the only link between the City and the south side of the River Thames in 1666. The bridge was itself dense with houses, although crucially, an open space between buildings on the bridge would act as a firebreak—preventing the flames from spreading from one wooden building to the next.
London in the 1600s
In the 1600s London was by far the largest city in Britain, with around half a million inhabitants. The City proper—the commercial heart of the capital—was home to about 80,000 people. It was surrounded by a ring of suburbs where most Londoners lived. The City was an overcrowded warren of narrow, winding, cobbled alleys.
Many of the wooden houses had thatched roofing—illegal, but common. The buildings, typically six- or seven-storey, had "jetties" (projecting upper floors) that leant out over the narrow streets, almost touching the houses opposite.
The City of London had experienced several major fires before 1666, the most recent in 1632.
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