Fires have brought enormous
changes to London. In AD 61 Boudicca and her tribesmen destroyed
the Roman city of Londinium by burning, evidenced by a layer of
burnt material in the ground.
THE GREAT FIRE
This began in a bakers in Pudding Lane on the night of
Sunday 2nd September. Fanned by a strong easterly wind
the flames quickly spread. The king ordered houses to be
pulled down to create a firebreak but the fire continued
and by 4th September half of the city had been consumed.
By the next day the worst was over but 400 acres within
the city walls had been burned. Plans by Wren and Evelyn
for rebuilding the city were rejected. A coal tax was
imposed to pay for public buildings and regulations
governed the construction of private houses. The 1667 map
by Leake & Hollar shows the extent of the damage. This
is available on the collage website ref 30305
There is an audio-visual presentation of the Great Fire
at the Museum of London using extracts from Pepys's
You can climb the monument which commemorates the fire
(via 311 steps!) for which you receive a certificate
(admission charge). It is a Doric column of Portland
Stone designed by Wren and Hooke in 1671-7 and stands
202' high, the distance from the start of the fire.
Little help was available for fighting fires although
some parishes kept some basic equipment. There are
examples of 'engines' (carts) in the Museum of London and
at Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell. The little building in
which the Ewell engine was housed still stands as does an
engine house at St Mary's Churchyard in Rotherhithe.
the photo shows the Rotherhithe Watch House but the
engine house is a matching building
|THE FIRE BRIGADE
After the Great Fire many householders paid fire
insurance. The company's metal badge was fixed onto the
house and firemen employed by each company would attempt
to save the building (no regard was paid to people!).
Gradually these fire-fighters began to co-operate and in
1833 they formed the London Fire Engine Establishment
with James Braidwood as Superintendant. Braidwood was
killed in the great Tooley Street fire of 1861 when a
wall collapsed. There is a memorial plaque near the spot.
Braidwood was succeeded by Captain Eyre Massey Shaw who
became Commander of the new Metropolitan Fire Brigade in
1865. He was to resign after the LCC took control in
1889. In 1904 it became known as the London Fire Brigade
and now has its HQ at Lambeth. The buildings it
previously occupied in Southwark Bridge Road house a
museum. This is open for guided tours which must be
booked. Telephone 020 7587 2894 or see their website for
details. A collection of photos is available online.
WORLD WAR II
The heavy bombing of London began on 7 September 1940
after which London was attacked nightly with 18800
tons of explosives being dropped up until May 1941.
One of the worst nights for the City was 30 December
1940 with buildings unoccupied after Christmas.
Firemen were hampered by broken water mains and low
river levels. In 3 hours 10000 incendries and high
explosive bombs were dropped by more than 100 enemy
planes. The 1950s OS map depicts a devasted city with
121 acres of property severely damaged and 104 acres
firemen's statue/memorial stands opposite St Pauls
Cathedral. A memorial parade and service is held. The
LMA holds copies of the 'Bomb Maps' of London [more
© london-footprints.co.uk 2007
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