On Sep 5/6, 1666, Great Fire of London that started on Sep 2 – finally ended.
A fire started on September 2nd in the King’s bakery in Pudding Lane near London Bridge. Fires were quite a common occurrence in those days.
As the fire raged on, people tried to leave the city and poured down to the River Thames in an attempt to escape by boat. Absolute chaos reigned.
By the 4th September half of London was in flames. The King himself joined the fire fighters, passing buckets of water to them in an attempt to quell the flames, but the fire raged on.
As refugees poured out of the city, St. Paul’s Cathedral was caught in the flames. The acres of lead on the roof melted and poured down on to the street like a river, and the great cathedral collapsed. Luckily the Tower of London escaped the inferno, and eventually the fire was brought under control, and by the 6th September had been extinguished altogether.
Only one fifth of London was left standing! Virtually all the civic buildings had been destroyed as well as 13,000 private dwellings, but amazingly only six people had died.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Eighty-nine parish churches, the Guildhall, numerous other public buildings, jails, markets and fifty-seven halls were now just burnt-out shells.
A poor demented French watchmaker called (Lucky) Hubert, confessed to starting the fire deliberately: justice was swift and he was rapidly hanged. Later, however, it was realized that he couldn’t have started it, as he was not in England at the time!
Although the Great Fire was a catastrophe, it did cleanse the city. The overcrowded and disease ridden streets were destroyed and a new London emerged.
Sir Christopher Wren was given the task of re-building London, and his masterpiece St. Paul’s Cathedral was started in 1675 and completed in 1711. Wren also rebuilt 52 of the City churches, and his work turned the City of London into the city we know today.