The Great Fire Of London: 80% Of London Burned Down In 1666

By | September 1, 2020

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A large fire breaks out in London, in the house of the baker of Charles II of England, Pudding Lane near London Bridge. The fire rages for three days, destroying 10,000 buildings, including the Cathedral of St. Paul, but just 16 people have lost their liv

Fifteenth-century London was a crowded, dirty, polluted place with wooden buildings topped by tar-covered roofs, built close together along narrow streets. Residents used fire to heat their homes, cook their meals, and see in the dark, and firefighting techniques consisted mostly of a bucket brigade. It was a recipe for disaster. That disaster erupted on September 2, 1666, when the Great Fire of London broke out near London Bridge and swept quickly through the city. When the flames were extinguished four days later, roughly 80% of London was destroyed.

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The Great Fire of London, depicted by an unknown painter (1675), as it would have appeared from a boat in the vicinity of Tower Wharf on the evening of Tuesday, 4 September 1666. (Museum of London/Wikimedia Commons)

The Great Fire Of London

A fire broke out at the King Charles II bakery, owned by Thomas Farriner, on Pudding Lane, a narrow street near the London Bridge. Fanned by strong winds, the fire spread to nearby Thames Street, which contained several large warehouses that stored flammable and combustible materials. That was all the fire needed to quadruple in size in short order and race from structure to structure in the city.

The fire raged for four days with no end in sight until September 6, when the winds finally died down enough for firefighters to get the upper hand. Using gunpowder from the storehouse at the Tower of London, the King's army created firebreaks to help contain the flames. It might seem like a bad idea to throw explosives onto a fire, but it worked. After four long days, the fire was out, but the task of cleaning up and rebuilding was just beginning.