Looking at the Great Fire of London

Looking at the Great Fire of London


Posted 2nd Sep 2016 by Peter Byrne


Today marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. The fire waged between September 2 and 5 in 1666, destroying 436 acres of the city. So what actually happened?

The fire initially started in the heart of London in the early hours of the Sunday morning. It is traditionally believed to have started in the shop of Thomas Farriner, who was also King Charles II's baker.

The finger is generally pointed at Farriner's bakery, yet he swore for the rest of his life that it was not his fault. He said he had properly raked out and cleaned his oven before going to bed, so it could therefore not be the cause. Others have pointed the finger at his maid, suggesting that she had failed to extinguish the ovens properly. Incidentally, she became one of the six victims that the fire claimed - she was too afraid to jump out of the window, like the rest of the Farriner family, to escape the blaze.

Conspiracy theories also saw the finger being pointed at France or the Netherlands, both of whom were at war with England at the time.

The fire was able to spread so fast as the wooden houses were built very close together, while a strong easterly wind only compounded the problem.

The fire resulted in the destruction of 13,200 homes, leaving around 100,000 homeless. The number of homes that were destroyed could, in part, be attributed to the tactic of Samuel Pepys, who is widely credited with suggesting the demolition of structures that were in the path of the fire to slow its progression.

While the fire was obviously destructive, it was also a blessing in disguise in some ways - it destroyed the areas of London that the Great Plague was prevalent in.

Samuel Pepys provides the best account of the fire, and he blamed the actions of Sir Thomas Bloodworth, the mayor of the time, for not stopping it sooner.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia





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