On the 350th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great Fire of London, Swords and Spindles pays tribute to the 100,000 brave Londoners who watched for five days as their city burnt. The weather was dry, the wind strong and the water levels in the Thames were low. This in a time of housing that was built of flammable materials and inadequate fire-fighting was terrifying. We think of Thomas Farriner, the baker who shop was traditionally though to have been in Pudding Lane but which recent research suggests may have been elsewhere.
Although Thomas’ wife had died in the plague of 1665, two of his three children, Thomas and Hannah, were living at home at the time. More information on the Farriner family can be found here. We think of Farriner’s anonymous maid, one of the few who perished in the fire because she was too frightened to jump from window to window. Other known victims were a watchmaker of Shoe Lane and an elderly woman whose body was found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Some sympathy too for Thomas Bludworth, Mayor of London who, quite literally, couldn’t stand the heat and left London instead of staying to organising fire-fighting efforts. Think also of French watchmaker Robert Hubert, who confessed to starting the fire, claiming that another Frenchman, Stephen Piedloe, had paid him to throw a fireball into the bakery. Hubert was hung in October 1666 but it is thought that he was ‘not of sound mind’ and that he was in fact innocent.
The loss of the architectural and literary heritage was great with 84 churches and the original St Paul’s Cathedral being destroyed, along with many books.
Swords and Spindles provide Great Fire of London sessions for schools. In commemoration of the 350th anniversary, we are offering a discount on these presentations for the Autumn Term 2016. For more Great Fire links and resources see our links page.