1666 - The Great Fire of London

August 2010

The Great Fire of London was huge, destroying the majority of the city.

The great fire swept through the city from Sunday 2nd of September to Wednesday 5th of September 1666. The portion of the city inside the ancient roman walls was completely gutted. It came close to the aristocratic district of Westminster, Whitehall, and most of the suburban slums, but it was extinguished before it reached them.

St. Paul's Cathedral was consumed, as were 13,200 houses, and 87 parish churches (out of a total 95).

About 75 thousand people were left homeless.

Only 6 people were officially recorded as being killed in the fire, though in reality the number must have been higher. Despite this the real numbers were also traditionally very low, though it is accepted that many refugees did die in the impromptu camps which resulted. Personally i find this surprising, however, I suppose once the fire was in full flow, the whole city knew about it, and fled from the fire as it spread. Despite this though i think the real figure must have been much higher, at least hundreds, and probably thousands. This was 1666, and the real number of people in London would have been impossible to know, many of the missing poor would have gone unreported as missing, and the fire would have been so fierce that remains would have been hard to find, especially under the rubble of the city.

The fire started in Thomas Farriner's bakery on pudding lane, in the early hours of the Sunday morning, spreading west across the city. The wind fanned the flames and the fire quickly got out of control. Spreading west, then north the fire spread through the center of the city.

Eventually the strong easterly winds died down, and the firefighting force used gunpowder to demolish buildings in the path of the fire to create effective firebreaks.

Every cloud...

The Fire put an end to the plague at the time, which is thougth to have actually saved a great many lives.

The city was reconstructed on much the same street layout.

What is clear is that many people will have died, and many more would have been displaced, Charles II encouraged refugees to move elsewhere away from London, as the city was not able to cope with the population which wished to stay in the city. In our search for our ancestors of our own family we have records back to a marriage in 1679 at Newbury, Berkshire, and i wonder could they have moved there from London after the fire?