Today in 1666, the great fire of London started in an east end bakery of one Thomas Farrier on Pudding Lane causing devastation and destruction to the English Capital.
The blaze burnt for 3 days and totally destroyed the medieval part of the city within the city boundaries marked by the remaining roman wall. These parts of the city were made up of slums and tenements and mostly made of wood, thus highly flammable. The flames and destruction stopped short of Westminster and Whitehall.
Amongst the architectural victims of the flames was the old St Pauls as well as a staggering 87 Parish churches. 90% of the cities inhabitants were made destitute as a result of the fire.
It is thought from examining architectural pottery from Pudding Lane where the fire commenced have indicated that at the height of the fire temperatures were thought to have reached a massive 1700C. These pottery pieces can be found in the Museum of London.
At this time in the 17th century there was no forma fire brigade to fight fires. The reason that the fire would get out of control and destroy so much of the city is due to the indecisiveness of the London Major at the time, one Sir Thomas Bloodsworth it was actually Charles II that would issue the order to demolish all houses as a means of fighting the fire. This was known as creating a firehook.
For the first day many did not see the point of fleeing the city however by day three mass exodus had started adding to the mayhem and chaos of trying to fight the fire. Pepys would even bury his most important items to save them from the fire. One of these items was part of a wheel of Parmesan cheese. Due to the export charges of getting the cheese to the UK in the 17th century the cheese was very expensive and highly prized.
One the fire was out there were several major complex issues firstly there was issues about rebuilding the homes that were destroyed as a result of the fire. A special court was set up to resolve these issues between Landlords and tenants legally. Then there were the issues of how to rebuild the city. Was the city of London to rebuild everything as it was before or totally reconstruct this part of the city in grand baroque style?
Then there was the concerns over who was to blame for the fire. During this time religious prejudice was rife and many blamed Catholics for starting the fire.
Like a phoenix slowly raising from the flames, St Pauls was redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren along with another 50 parish churches. St Pauls has now become an iconic London landmark. During WW2 and the blitz she was a morale booster as Hitler dropped bombs on the capital. St Pauls is one lasting enduring legacy from the fire and London today would be all the poor for it.