The Limits of The Great Fire of London
The Great Fire of London started at about 3am on Sunday morning of September 2nd 1666 when a baker had left a pile of faggots or brushwood too near the fire of his oven in Pudding Lane before going out. The street was full of overhanging timber built houses which could offer but slight resistance to flames.
This fire soon spread and later that night Samuel Pepys, the famous London diarist, was awoken by his maid who brought to his attention a fire which could be seen from his bedroom window. However, he thought it a trivial affair and went back to sleep.
It was pretty far from trivial destroying in four days 13,200 houses and rendering some 200 000 people homeless. In one sense it was a blessing as it swept away the filth of centuries, purifying the disease-ridden soil and burying beneath tons of debris the poisonous waters which menaced the health of the citizens, helping to rid the city of the great plague which killed far more people than the fire.
At that time the belief was that the plague and the fire of London were manifestations of the wrath of God against a wicked and disobedient people.
A London preacher on the anniversary of the great fire of London solemnly informed his congregation that “the calamity could not have been occasioned by the sin of blasphemy, for in that case it would have begun in Billingsgate; nor lewdness for in that case Drury Lane had been the first on fire; nor lying, for then the flames had reached the City from Westminster Hall law courts). No my beloved, it was occasioned by the sin of gluttony, for it began at Pudding Lane and ended at Pie Corner.”
Some people accused foreigners of having deliberately starting the fire and for some time it was unsafe for anyone foreign, especially Dutch, to be seen in the streets.
Finally a self-appointed victim offered himself to assuage the wrath of the citizens. Robert Hubert, a lunatic French silversmith from Rouen admitted to starting the fire. The judge didn’t believe him and nor did the King but nevertheless he was hanged even though it was discovered that he only arrived in London two days after the fire started.
A little further along from Pie Corner is a watch house which was erected to keep an eye on the grave robbers who used to deal in dead bodies and sell them to the medical students at St Bart’s hospital.
And further along from that near the Viaduct Tavern is the oldest drinking fountain in London.