The Great Fire of London Facts
Discover the fierce flames that changed London forever…
We’re off on a journey back in time to learn about one seriously hot topic. Fancy joining? Then check out our Great Fire of London facts…
The Great Fire of London facts
When was the Great Fire of London?
The Great Fire of London started at around 1am on Sunday 2 September 1666. And boy did it burn! The fire raged for four days straight, until its final fizzles were extinguished on Thursday 6 September 1666.
What caused the Great Fire of London?
The fire started in the home of a baker named Thomas Farynor (Farriner), located on London’s Pudding Lane. Thomas wasn’t your average baker, though – he was King Charles II’s baker. Impressive, eh?
It’s thought the fire started when a spark fell out of the oven after the family had gone to bed. Uh oh! However, Thomas denied this theory until the day he died, claiming his oven was put out properly.
One thing’s for sure though – however the the fire started, it brought complete devastation to the city of London…
In 17th century London, not only were buildings made from wood and straw, but they stood very close together, making it easy for fire to spread. Plus, warehouses around Pudding Lane contained flammable materials such as oil and rope which soon caught alight, fuelling the flames! The long, dry summer that year didn’t help the situation much either….
Within just a few hours, London Bridge by the River Thames was burning. For the next four days, the fire continued to spread through the city, propelled by strong winds.
Put it out!
Rather than fight the fire, people’s first reaction was to get away from the raging flames as quickly as possible – and who could blame them?! In a state of panic, they collected all the belongings they could carry and fled. Some sprinted to the hills, while others fled to the River Thames, where they boarded boats. Thomas and his family sure didn’t stick around – they escaped through their upstairs window and onto the neighbour’s roof!
Back then, there was no fire brigade in London, which meant it was up to local soldiers as well as regular Londoners to fight the fire. But how? Well, they did the best they could with the limited equipment they had – leather buckets filled with water and water squirts. Doesn’t sound promising, does it?
They also used metal hooks to pull down buildings and create open spaces so the fire couldn’t spread. But strong winds meant the fire crossed these “fire breaks”, and continued its course of chaos….
It wasn’t until the third night of the blaze, Tuesday 4 September, that the fire was brought under control. Instead of tearing buildings down, the Navy was called upon to blow them up with gunpowder, creating larger fire breaks. Boom!
The wind had finally started to die down, too, which helped to stop the flames from spreading. More buildings were destroyed the following day, and by Thursday the fire was extinguished. Phew!
Did you know…?
Most of what we know about the Great Fire of London came from the diaries of two men called Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, who both left eyewitness accounts of this famous tragedy.
The damage is done…
So what was left of London after the Great Fire? Not a whole lot, is the quick answer! A third of the city had been destroyed – an area the size of around 280 football pitches! About 13,200 houses and 87 churches were burned to the ground, as well as famous buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral and The Royal Exchange. Surprisingly, only six official deaths were recorded…but the actual figure is likely to be much higher.
In the aftermath of the disaster, London was a place of desperation. With 70,000 people left homeless, theft and other crimes swept what was left of the city, as well as sickness and disease. Temporary buildings and camps were made to shelter people through the winter, whilst lots of work and money went into rebuilding the burned down areas – a process that took nearly 50 years…
The road to recovery – a new London!
There is no doubt that the Great Fire was an awful tragedy – but it did lead to some positive changes to London. The city was rebuilt in a safer and more organised way, so that such a disaster would not happen again. Streets were made wider, and buildings were made from brick or stone (rather than wood), with better access to water. What’s more, London’s first fire brigades were formed to tackle any future blazes that might break out. What a relief!
The recovery of the city also saw the rise of a number of beautiful and iconic buildings like St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was redesigned by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. Christopher also designed the famous Monument to the Great Fire of London, which stands near to Pudding Lane, so that this important historical event would never be forgotten.