On September 2nd, 1666, A baker's shop named Thomas Farriner’s located in Pudding lane lit on fire early in the morning just after midnight. London during the time was not like the city we know now but was a fire trap of wood buildings with thatch roofs which had been banned for centuries, however, had still been used due to the cost and ease of using these highly flammable materials, this was little helped by the fact that buildings while having a small base would slowly get bigger as the floors went up encroaching on the streets (Hanson 77-80), firefighting at the time was very primitive at best. Firefighters used hooks to tear down buildings fire could spread to or even the buildings on fire, Paired with gunpowder explosives this usually was enough, however as is the nature of fire even a single ember can light leaves and twigs on fire, and unluckily for those of London, their roofs were made of straw and the primitive firefighting of tearing down buildings or passing water buckets in a line would be of little effect with the strong winds of the moment (Hanson 77).
On the first day of the fire action to it was delayed by city mayor Thomas Bloodworth who insisted the adjoining houses could not be demolished due to them being rented with no landlord to be found causing the fire to not only spread to them but in the direction of warehouses packed with Flammable material near the riverfront the Thames. Sunday the 2nd would also be the day of the first Victim of the fire, a Maidservant of the family who owned the Bakery who could not escape the start of the flames.
While on the 3rd the fire would spread very little by the 4th the fire had spread to much of the center of London. The roman stone wall depicted in Tinniswood 58 would not even hold the fire.
On the 4th day, the fire had spread exponentially and had even reached Saint Peter's Cathedral. London often had fires but none had reached the scale of the great fire, as after the slow to react Thomas Bloodworth refused to let buildings be destroyed to stop the fire, it had reached the waterfront and not only made it harder to get water but ignited the water wheels supplying the pipes that were used in firefighting. “Fire Engines” were also used to aid in the fighting of the flames however they were very ineffective, it is unknown how many were present but fire engines of the time were pumps on sleds that a majority of the time had no wheels and didn’t have a hose only a spout to fill buckets. Many fire engines were dropped into the Thames when attempted to be refilled and by the time the flames had spread to the Thames river, it was too hot to get them within a reasonable distance (Tinniswood 52).
By the 5th, the wind started to die down and firefighters were finally able to contain the fire, once it had ended those affected by the fire would camp out in nearby unburned areas and attempt to salvage what they could in the burned areas, King Charles II ordered supplies including bread to be brought into the city and shops to be set up around the burn area to help those affected by the flame (Tinniswood 107) In total 6 deaths have been recorded from the fire although due to the number of people in the small area (an estimated 60000) many are unrecorded.
“The Great Fire of London – where it really started.” Country Life, 12 February 2016, https://www.countrylife.co.uk/country-life/where-the-great-fire-of-london-began-83288. Accessed 1 September 2022.
Leian is a Junior at Poudre high school who is in his first year at the Poudre Press and runs a blog called History, Today.