Today in History: 2 September, 1666 - Great Fire of London started

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Today in History: 2nd September, in 1666, the Great Fire of London started.


The Great Fire of London is one of the most well-known disasters in London’s history.

It began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days.

One-third of London was destroyed and about 100,000 people were made homeless.

The fire had a devastating effect on the lives of Londoners from all parts of society.

It took about 50 years to rebuild the ruined city.

The fire started at 1am on Sunday morning on 2 September in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane.

It may have been caused by a spark from his oven falling onto a pile of fuel nearby.

The fire spread easily because London was very dry after a long, hot summer.

The area around Pudding Lane was full of warehouses containing highly flammable things like timber, rope and oil.

A very strong easterly wind blew the fire from house to house in the narrow streets.

As the fire was spreading so quickly most Londoners concentrated on escaping, rather than fighting the fire.They rescued as many of their belongings as they could carry and fled.

Thomas Farriner and his family had to climb out of an upstairs window and onto their neighbour’s roof to escape the fire in their bakery.

There was no fire brigade in London in 1666 so Londoners themselves had to fight the fire, helped by local soldiers.

They used buckets of water, water squirts and fire hooks.

Equipment was stored in local churches.

The best way to stop the fire was to pull down houses with hooks to make gaps or ‘fire breaks’. This was difficult because the wind forced the fire across any gaps created.

The mayor, Thomas Bludworth, complained, ‘the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.’

A quicker way of demolishing houses was to blow them up with gunpowder, but this technique wasn’t used until the third day of the fire (Tuesday 4 September).

Fire Posts, each staffed by 130 men, were set up around the City to fight the blaze.

On Tuesday night the wind dropped and the firefighters finally gained control.

By dawn on Thursday the fire was out.

It consumed 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul's Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities.

It is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the city's 80,000 inhabitants.

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