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In 1986 the Baker's Company issued a slightly delayed apology for the Great
Fire of London, which began on the night of 2 September 1666. What's 320
years between friends?
A superlative account of the Fire comes from Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the
Admiralty. He wrote "a most malicious bloody flame, as one entire arch of
fire... of above a mile long. It made me weep to see it. The churches,
houses, and all on fire and flaming at once, and a horrid noise the flames
made, and the cracking of houses at their ruin ...Over the Thames with one's
face in the wind you were almost burned with a shower of firedrops."
The Great Fire of London began as a small fire on Pudding Lane, in the
bakeshop of Thomas Farynor, baker to the restored Stuart king King Charles
To stop a fire from spreading the standard procedure had always been
creating firebreaks by destroying the houses in the path of the fire. The
Lord Mayor, Bludworth worried about the cost of rebuilding, delayed. By the
time a Royal command came down to create firebreaks, carried by Samuel
Pepys, the fire was out of control. The fire blazed unchecked for another
three days, until it halted near Temple Church. The fire sprang to life
again, continuing towards Westminster. The Duke of York later James II had
the presence of mind to order the Paper House demolished to create an
effective firebreak, and the fire finally died down. 80% of the city was
destroyed, including over 13,000 houses, 89 churches and 52 Company (Guild)
Halls. Old St. Paul's Cathedral, was rubble.The Lord Mayor must have thought
twice about saving money after that.
It was a disaster of unparalleled size. Fortunately only between 6 and 18
people died. King Charles II joined the bucket brigade in the City.
The Sinclair connection; Iain Sinclair, reviewed in the Guardian Peter
Ackroyd's book 'London: The Biography' published by Chatto and Windus, which
includes a section on the Great Fire. Sinclair wrote "London: The Biography
is an antiquarian project, a city of words, a public monument to set
alongside the sculptures of Henry Moore. This is a final tribute to an
unworkable notion of the epic. It is extraordinary that it exists and that
its existence shames the city of bricks and mortar." Sinclair saw the work
as a paean to a "Falstaffian past" and an attack on an "anorexic present"
Guess he didn't like it
Ref: Schofield, John. The Building of London: From the Conquest to the Great
Fire. British Museum. London 1984
The Guardian 17 October 2000
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