On this day in history : 2nd September 1666 – The Great Fire of London starts in a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane…. The fire blazes for four days and destroys over 13,000 buildings….
The fire started in the bakery of Thomas Farriner, shortly after midnight and rapidly spread across the old medieval city – the flames fanned by a strong easterly wind…. Fires were commonplace at the time and were usually quickly put out – but it had been a very hot summer and there had been no rain for weeks and the old timber and thatched roofs of the buildings were very dry and provided a ready fuel….
The main fire fighting technique of the time was to demolish buildings to create firebreaks…. However, hesitation by the Lord Mayor of the time, Thomas Bloodworth, who said -“Pish! A woman might piss it out!”- meant by the time demolition commenced it was too late to be effective….
As a last resort gunpowder was used to blow up houses in the path of the fire to create a larger firebreak – which in turn started rumours circulating that the French were invading! By the time the fire had finally been put out only a fifth of the old city was left standing…. 13,200 houses had been destroyed, 87 churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral and most of the city authorities buildings…. Out of 80,000 inhabitants living in the city at the time it is estimated around 70,000 were made homeless…. Surprisingly the death toll, although officially unknown, is not thought to have been particularly high – only six deaths were recorded at the time…. However, it could be argued this figure is irrelevant and the true number may well have been much higher than believed, as deaths of the poor were not usually reported…. Such was the intensity of the heat many of the remains would have been cremated beyond recognition of even being human….