Here are some interesting facts about the devastating fire, called The Great Fire of London, which pretty much destroyed most of England’s capital city in 1666.
- Most of the houses in London at the time of the Great Fire of London were made of timber (wood). They were very closely packed together and London’s streets were extremely narrow.
- In 1666, the year of the fire, there had been a very long, dry summer. Quite a bit of the water supplies had been used up during the droughts caused by the hot weather.
- People (such as Daniel Baker) had feared that London would be very vulnerable to a large fire, and they would be proved right.
- The Great Fire of London was started with just one spark. At about 2 o’clock in the morning on Sunday 2nd September 1666 at Thomas Farynor’s bakers in Pudding Lane, one of the workers smelled smoke and woke his boss and his family. The family fled across the street, but one of the household’s maids refused to leave. She became one of the first people to be killed by the fire.
- The fire spread rapidly from dry timber building to dry timber building, helped by a strong wind. Luckily, the fire was unable to spread across London Bridge and this meant that the fire was confined to the City of London and didn’t damage any of the building south of the River Thames.
- The fire raged all through Sunday and started to head east, west and north. Apparently, the smoke could be seen from Oxford, and many Londoners began to gather in the large open spaces of Finsbury Hill and Moorfields.
- Many houses were pulled down on purpose to try and create fire breaks. This tactic was quite successful in East London.
- The fire destroyed Newgate Prison and Ludgate Prison and it started to head towards St Paul’s Cathederal (which was covered in scaffolding). Within just a few hours the cathedral was destroyed – even the lead on its roof had melted.
- On Wednesday 5th September, the Great Fire of London virtually came to an end. The fire reached the stone walls of Middle Temple and this happened at the same time as a change in the strength and direction of the wind.
- The Great Fire of London destroyed more than 370 acres of the City of London. It destroyed more than 13,000 houses, 84 churches and more than 40 halls.
- Although official records show that only four people lost their lives in the fire, the number was probably much higher than this.
- More than 100,000 people were made homeless, and the damage would cost over £1 billion in today’s money.
- Samuel Pepys, the great English diarist, was forced to flee his home during the fire, but not before he had buried some wine, his Parmesan cheese and other prized possessions.
What next? Find out about the Monument to the Great Fire of London, discover more facts about London by visiting our London resources page, or check out some recommended children’s books about The Great Fire of London.
Click here to see some Great Fire of London classroom displays.