The Great Fire of London 1666

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Great Fire of London

This timeline is a chronology of the Great Fire of London September 1666

Please note that some times given are approximations determined by the sequence of events for that day as noted in relevant sources.

See also: The Great Plague 1665

 

1559 (during)
Daniel Baker had warned that London would be destroyed by ‘a consuming fire’.
1661 (during)
King Charles II ordered that overhanging windows and jetties should not be built. However, the order was ignored by the councillors of London.
1665 (April)
King Charles II spoke to the Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Bloodworth, and warned him of the danger of fire in the city due to the narrow streets and overhanging wooden houses.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 1 am
A fire broke out in the house of baker Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane. The baker and his family escaped through an upstairs window. A maid who refused to climb over the rooftops died in the fire.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 2 am
Church bells near Pudding Lane began ringing to alert people that a fire had taken hold.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 3 am
The fire had grown so large that it could be seen a quarter of a mile away. Residents of the area tried to douse the flames using buckets of water, milk or even urine but the fire was too dense and continued to spread. The Mayor of London, Thomas Bloodworth was woken and told the news but he took no action.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 4 am
The fire reached warehouses on the banks of the Thames which were full of all manner of goods. As they caught light some of the warehouses exploded. Other warehouses caught light due to the intense heat. The streets were full of people, some pushing carts laden with their belongings, trying to escape the fire.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 5 am
The Lord Mayor was advised to destroy houses in the path of the fire to stop it spreading. He ignored the order since he did not want to have to pay for the rebuilding of the demolished houses.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 6 am
Samuel Pepys’ maid told him that more than 300 houses had been destroyed by the fire. He recorded in his diary that ‘people were falling over themselves’ trying to escape. Other people were throwing their possessions into the river and those with transport made money by transporting the goods of the rich out of the city.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 7 am
Samuel Pepys made the decision to send his possessions out of the city. He also sent his diary away for safekeeping.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 10 am
The streets of London were now filled with people who had learned of the fire and were scared that it would reach their properties. Samuel Pepys went to look at the fire himself then went to tell the King. He was concerned that people were fleeing London rather than trying to help put the fire out.
1666 Sunday 2nd September 10 pm
The fire had spread due to windy conditions and now covered an area half a mile to the east and north of Pudding Lane. King Charles II ordered the Lord Mayor to pull down houses in the path of the fire and stop it from spreading. King Charles’s brother, James, offered the Lord Mayor soldiers to help pull down houses in the path of the fire but the Mayor refused.
1666 Monday 3rd September 6 am
The fire continued to spread due to hot dry and windy weather conditions. Many more people had packed their goods onto boats on the River Thames, while others fled the city. The roads were closed to incoming traffic to make it easier for people to escape. The General Letter Office in Threadneedle Street burned down destroying correspondence that was waiting for delivery.
1666 Monday 3rd September 9 am
King Charles II put his brother James in charge of organising fire fighting in the city when it appeared that the Lord Mayor had left the city.
1666 Monday 3rd September 11 am
People were prohibited from bringing carts near the fire. The order was made to try to get people to leave the area of the fire. However, people were desperate to salvage what they could from their homes before packing carts and trying to flee the city. Those with carts to hire made huge sums of money as they charged as much as £40 per cart.
1666 Monday 3rd September 2 pm
The fire reached the banking region of the city and it was feared that the heat of the fire would melt gold coins. Bankers hurriedly removed coins from the area. The Royal Exchange, where merchants traded in a wide range of goods and the East India Company stored spices, caught fire.
1666 Monday 3rd September 8 pm
An easterly wind prevented the fire from spreading to far to the east and the river Thames had largely halted the fire in the South. However it was just yards from the Tower of London where many people had put their valuables for safe keeping and full attention was put to preserving the building. Barrels of gunpowder were stored beneath the Tower.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 7 am
The fire continued to burn despite the best efforts of fire fighters and smoke could be seen as far away as Oxford. The weather was again hot and windy which helped to fan the fire and it reached the fashionable shopping area of Cheapside.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 8 am
The fire continued to spread and engulfed some of the halls of the livery companies, home of the trade guilds.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 12 noon
King Charles II joined the lines of people passing buckets of water to pour on the flames. His brother James had stationed himself near the River Fleet where he hoped the river would halt the fire but the easterly wind blew the flames across and the fire burned on forcing him to flee the post.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 1 pm
Prisoners from Newgate prison were led south to escape the flames. Some prisoners saw this as a chance to escape. People began looting goods from unattended properties and shops.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 2 pm
The fire reached Ludgate Hill, home to many booksellers as well as St Paul’s Cathedral. The booksellers took their books and put them in the crypts underneath St Paul’s Cathedral.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 4 pm
A large firebreak had been created by James to the north of the fire which had held the flames back but suddenly the flames leapt across the break.
1666 Tuesday 4th September 5 pm
The roof of St Paul’s Cathedral caught fire. It is believed that the fire reached the Cathedral because wooden scaffolding had been erected for some building work to be carried out. Molten lead from the Cathedral roof ran down the streets. Falling masonry and molten lead reach the crypts and books stored there were destroyed.
1666 Wednesday 4th September 6 pm
People began looking for the person who started the fire. Thomas Farriner, the Pudding Lane baker, claimed his innocence. Meanwhile the authorities had stopped a watchmaker’s son, Robert Hubert, at the coast who confessed to having started the fire by putting a fireball through the window of the bakery. It is believed that Hubert was mentally ill and unaware of the severity of what he was saying. Members of the Farriner family gave evidence at his trial. He was found guilty and executed.
1666 Wednesday 4th September 7 pm
St Paul’s Cathedral had been completely destroyed by the fire.
1666 Wednesday 5th September 7 am
The wind had changed direction and was now blowing the fire east towards the Tower of London. There was a real fear that the Tower would ignite and the gunpowder stored beneath would explode. Dockers had been brought in from Deptford and attempted to put out the fire using buckets of water and fire squirts. Chains of people passed buckets to those nearest the fire.
1666 Wednesday 5th September 12 noon
A number of houses were pulled down near the Tower of London using fire hooks and gunpowder. This stopped the spread of the fire. People had made makeshift tents with their salvaged possessions in Moorfields, a large public park to the north of the city. Around the park area the price of bread had doubled in price from the previous week.
1666 Wednesday 5th September 4 pm
The wind finally dropped and the spread of the fire was halted.
1666 Wednesday 5th September 8 pm
The fires in the west of the city had been put out. A light in the sky to the north started a rumour that French and Dutch immigrants were marching to Moorfields and would kill all survivors. The rumour caused widespread panic.
1666 Thursday 6th September
The fire was finally extinguished. The damage to London was immense. 87 churches including St Paul’s Cathedral and 13,200 houses had been destroyed. Only 6 people were officially recorded as having lost their lives in the blaze. Some, modern historians believe the death toll to have been much higher either because the intensity of the blaze would have left no sign of any bodies. Others believe that if the death toll had been that high then people would have spoken of it and it would have been recorded somewhere.
1666 Thursday 6th September
Around 100,000 people had lost their homes and had flocked to the open spaces around the city such as Hampstead Heath. These people were homeless and starving. It was fortunate that it was September and all around Britain the harvest was being brought in. Charles II ordered that military rations be used to feed the people.
1666 Friday 7th September
Records show that a large number of people arrived at St Bartholomew’s hospital, which was still standing, seeking treatment for burns and other injuries caused by the fire.
1666 October
King Charles issued a proclamation asking people to donate money to churches so that they could distribute poor relief to those people that had been made homeless and lost their livelihoods due to the fire.

 

Published Sept 27, 2018 @ 11:30 am – Updated – Feb 4, 2019 @ 4:55 pm

 

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2018 – 2019). The Great Fire of London 1666. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/the-great-fire-of-london-1666. Last accessed March 30th, 2019

 

 

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