Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2 - Great Fire of London

At 2.00 a.m. on Sunday, September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London began at the house of a baker in Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. Fanned by strong winds, flames spread westward over the following three days and destroyed what was the medieval City, inside the ancient Roman walls. A long summer drought had heightened the danger of fire among the City’s old timber houses overhanging haphazard, narrow streets. For years the aristocracy had shunned the City and lived either in the country, beyond suburban slums, or in posh Westminster (today’s West End), where King Charles II held court during the Restoration. Celebrated diarist Samuel Pepys recorded much of the conflagration and described a huge, shocking encampment of homeless refugees in a public park, "poor wretches carrying their good(s).” The Great Fire consumed the dwellings of an estimated 70,000 of the 80,000 Londoners. But by 1711, a reconstructed London included 50 new churches by architect Christopher Wren, including today’s majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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