London, England had recently gotten over a plague outbreak that had killed 68 people in the previous two years. (1) The city was primarily constructed with wood and the structures were very close together which made them susceptible to fire. There was no fire service. (2)
This oil painting by artist, Rita Greer, depicts the third day of the fire (Sept. 4th) - Such Such terrifying destruction is on a par with the firestorms after World War II bombings. The narrow streets, timber-framed, thatched houses would later be replaced by brick, stone and tiled buildings to prevent such a tragedy happening again.
Sequence of Events:
September 2, 1666:
The fire began on the early morning of September 2, 1666 at the house of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker, on Pudding Lane. The baker and his workers woke up to the smell of smoke at 2:00 am. The narrow streets and wooden structures allowed the fire to spread rapidly. The Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, did not take the news seriously when he was woken up. (3)
Samuel Pepys saw the fire and told the king and the Duke of York. The King ordered the mayor to create a fire break by destroying houses in the fire's path. However, the strong wind enabled the fire to travel over the gaps created by the firebreaks. By morning, the fire was heading north and west towards a wealthy area of the city.
September 3, 1666:
The next day, the King and the Duke of York were helping efforts to extinguish the fire. They had the fire contained for a short period, but then it began burning again in Cheapside, the wealthiest street in London. People continued demolishing houses attempting to stop the fire but it continued burning destroying houses, prisons, and even St. Paul's Cathedral.
September 4, 1666:
The fire stopped burning when the wind changed course and it encountered the Middle Temple, a brick structure, at Fetter Lane.
September 5, 1666:
The fire was finally extinguished completely and attention turned to finding out who started the fire.
The fire destroyed 373 acres of the city:
- 13,200 houses
- 84 churches
- 44 company halls
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/great_fire_01.shtmlRobinson,Bruce. "London's Burning: The Great Fire." BBC. Last modified 2014.
- "Great Fire of London: how London changed." National Archives.
- Johnson, Ben. "The Great Fire of London." Historic UK.
For more information regarding this and other moments in fire history, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Research Library & Archives.
Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.
*Special thanks to Caitlin Walker for her work in researching and writing this synopsis of The Great London Fire.