On the fateful early morning of September 2, 1666, London was struck with a great fire just after the city had recuperated from the Great Plague. The Great Fire of London caused far greater damage than the plague. The social and economic lives of Londoners were so greatly affected that evacuation and resettlement were highly supported by Charles II.
The Great Fire of London originated from a small fire in the bake shop of Thomas Farynor on Pudding Lane in the early morning of September 2, 1666, Sunday, and lasted until Wednesday, September 5, 1666. Farynor was the baker for King Charles II.
The cause of the fire was due to the negligence of the baker’s maid in forgetting to put out the oven at the end of the night. The heat kindled sparks that ignited the baker’s wooden house and caused the fire to spread.
The fire surged for four days until it was finally put out after the wind changed direction. The aftermath left massive damage. Three hundred and seventy-three acres of London were destroyed; 13,000 houses and 84 churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, and also much of London’s Bridge were consumed by fire. Only 51 churches and 9,000 houses were rebuilt.
There were only six recorded deaths, but the exact death toll from the fire remained unknown. The probable cause of the lack of records was that the deaths of the poor and the middle class were not documented. Body remains of fire victims may have been burned and charred beyond recognition.
The Great Fire of London has some sort of a food theme to it. The fire started on Pudding Lane after midnight of September 2, 1666, and was put out at Pie Corner (or Pye Corner) in Smithfield on September 5, 1666. Daniel Baker had predicted that London would be destroyed by fire 100 years earlier.
When the fire pounded London, a wealthy man named Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary that he buried his wine and parmesan cheese in a hole he dug up in his garden. During his time, parmesan cheese was a delicacy and had a commanding price. It was similar to burying a gold bar nowadays. Pepys’ house survived the fire, but the remains of his cheese and wine remain unknown.
In the following year after the fire in 1667, Dr. Barbon formed the first insurance company known as “The Insurance Office.” The Insurance Office was located behind London Royal Exchange Stock; however, the insurance company went out of business in the long run.
The estimated total cost of damage from the fire was £10 million, when London’s average annual income during that time was only £12,000. London had to be rebuilt after the Great Fire, but a lot of Londoners were financially ruined. Thus, the early fire brigades were put into place by insurance companies to compensate for the cost of putting out fires.
During the height of the fire, people ran and escaped to Moorefield and Finsbury Fields; and many had to remain there as they were rendered homeless after the fire. King Charles II sent them biscuits from the navy; but they remained uneaten because the biscuits were too hard to eat, thus the King ordered bread from neighboring countries to be sent to the evacuees daily.
Even though the fire ravaged most of London, it also brought unexpected benefits in its aftermath—the streets were widened, buildings were made stronger and designed to be more fireproof, and many of the rats that caused the plague were eliminated. London was rebuilt using more bricks and mortar and stones instead of wood.
An apology was made to the Lord Mayor of London in 1986, which was 320 years after the fire happened, by the Worshipful Company of Bakers for starting the fire.