This year marks 350 years since the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the ancient city and brought about a rebirth fuelled by architects of the age like Sir Christopher Wren, the famed designer of St Paul's Cathedral. So here's a quick primer on the fire...


FIRE MEMORIAL: The Monument, topped with gold, in the City of London today. PICTURE: David Adams

• The Great Fire of London started in the bakery of widower Thomas Farriner, located in Pudding Lane at the eastern end of the city, in the early hours of 2nd September. The fire may have started due to an improperly doused oven (although the precise reason for its ignition remains lost to history). Mr Farriner, who lived above the bakery, managed to escape the flames with his children by climbing out a window across the rooftops but a maid servant who lived with them did not escape.

• The fire, which came at the end of an exceptional drought, raged for four days before, helped by the demolition of buildings in its pathway (and creating firebreaks), it burnt itself out. 

• The Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, has over the years been widely criticised for his lack of action during the fire, in particular for refusing to allow demolition of property to create firebreaks in the early stages of the blaze (although, to be fair, in his defence until he had the King's authority to do so he apparently could be held liable for the cost of rebuilding). The king subsequently commanded him to do so but it's reported that even then he said no-one would obey his orders to do so.

• The fire burnt through around 150 hectares within the walls of the city and some 24 or so outside. More than 13,000 houses were destroyed along with public buildings like livery halls and churches - the most famous of which was the medieval St Paul's Cathedral.

• The death toll from the fire is often said to less than 10 including the Farriners' maidservant but some modern writers say that the death toll was more likely to have been in the hundreds if not the thousands with the absence of bodies in the immediate aftermath of the fire perhaps due to the extreme heat.

• In the hysteria which followed the fire, many blamed a foreign power or Catholic conspirators for starting it (England then being a majority Protestant kingdom). Indeed, a Frenchman, Robert Hubert, is said to have confessed to starting the fire although some now believe he suffered from a mental illness (and even at the time people who knew him said he wasn't even in London when the fire began). Nevertheless he was hanged for the crime of starting the fire at Tyburn in London's west.

• The most famous accounts of the fire are found in excerpts from the diaries of Londoners, Samuel Pepys (who writes of reporting the fire to King Charles II and brother James, Duke of York) and and John Evelyn. 

• The Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire, still stands near London Bridge, close to the site of where Mr Farriner's bakery stood (the story is that it stands exactly as far from the site of the bakery as it is tall). It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke and built between 1671-77.

• Sir Christopher Wren is the most famous architect involved in the rebuilding of London in the aftermath of the fire, notably for the 52 churches he rebuilt in the City, many of which still survive today.

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