London Remembers The Great Fire of 1666

Sep 17, 2016 By Aarathi
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Three hundred and fifty years ago, the city of London in UK went up in flames.

The fire originated in a small bakery in Pudding Lane. Fueled by the the wooden buildings of that era, it raged across London for four long days in September 1666.

Although the total number of casualties was quite low, thousands were left homeless due to loss of property. 

The inferno however cleared the way for a new London which rose up from the ashes of the old city to become a large and modern city. Let's see why the fire happened and how London came alive last week.

The Great Fire

In September 1666, London was a large and crowded city with narrow roads and many medieval structures constructed of wood and tar-paper.

Not surprisingly, a small accidental fire in a bakery had plenty of fuel and aided by strong winds, it quickly turned into a large and uncontrollable blaze. Since there were no fire fighting services, the only solution was to pull down houses so as to contain the fire and stop it from spreading.

Unfortunately, the authorities hesitated to pull down many houses that belonged to prominent citizens with a lot of political influence. This delay only worsened the situation. In trying to escape from the flames, London was a scene of extreme chaos and racist violence. Many historic buildings such as St.Paul's Cathedral also fell prey to the inferno. Later, it was found that people fleeing the fire were unable to even use the Thames because of the intense heat all along the river's banks.

By the time the fire was contained and burned itself out, most of London inside the old city walls was destroyed. More than 13,000 buildings were reduced to ashes and over 70,000 citizens stranded. Over the next few years, the city gradually grew back and most of the refugees were able to return. Many new structures were designed and deliberately erected in stone, and new services such as fire fighting and insurance also became popular. 

London's Burning

To celebrate the rebirth of the city, a programme called London's Burning was organised between 30th August and 4th September. It encouraged artists to come up with their own creative representation of the Great Fire.

Other than exhibitions and concerts, the events also included a giant domino chain which followed the path of the fire across London's streets. Films were projected onto the walls of the rebuilt St.Pauls's cathedral as well.

The most extraordinary event started off as a large wooden replica of the city as it was 350 years ago. Around 190 structures representing London of the 17th century were erected atop a 120-metre long barge on the River Thames. In front of a huge crowd, this model was set alight in a fiery display that lit up the city.

cc BBC, Telegraph, History.com