In the heart of London’s history lies a monumental event that altered the city forever. The Great Fire of London, which occurred 350 years ago, destroyed 80% of the city in just four days. Today, we revisit the chaos that was “London’s Burning” and the transformation it spurred.
The Four Days of Fire: A Look Back
The fire started in the East, at the Tower, and burned its way westward to Fleet Street and Fetter Lane. A horrifying four days saw an astonishing 373 acres of the city being reduced to ashes. Approximately 13,200 houses, 84 churches, and 44 company halls were lost to the flames.
The Destruction Begins
The fire ignited in a bakery on Pudding Lane on the 2nd of September 1666. Fanned by strong winds, it spread rapidly. Attempts to control it were futile, with firefighting techniques being rudimentary and ineffective against a fire of such scale.
London’s Burning: A City Engulfed
As the fire raged, a shocked city watched helplessly. Buildings, churches, and homes that stood for centuries were consumed by the unrelenting flames. The familiar landscape of the medieval city was being wiped out, with Londoners powerless to stop it.
The Aftermath of the Great Fire
Post the fire, London lay in ruins. The destruction was extensive, leaving a large portion of the city’s population homeless. The heart of the city was scorched, but its spirit was not extinguished.
Rising from the Ashes
In the face of this widespread destruction, London had to rebuild. Efforts to restore the city started almost immediately. New laws were put in place to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again, and the face of London began to change.
The Rebirth of a City
The city that rose from the ashes was vastly different from the medieval city that had once stood. The rebuilding of London was not merely an architectural endeavor, but a reimagination of the city itself.
Post-fire, London was reborn. It was no longer a city of wooden structures but one of brick and stone. Streets were widened, and new regulations made buildings safer. The city that emerged was a testament to the resilience of its people.
“London’s Burning”: A Nursery Rhyme is Born
Among the enduring legacies of the Great Fire is the nursery rhyme “London’s Burning.” This simple rhyme serves as a stark reminder of the devastation that gripped the city all those years ago.
The Rhyme That Remembers
The lyrics of “London’s Burning” capture the urgency and fear experienced by those who lived through the Great Fire. With its simple melody and repetitive phrases, it is a tune known by children across generations.
“London’s burning, London’s burning.
Fetch the engines, fetch the engines.
Fire, fire! Fire, Fire!
Pour on water, pour on water.”
These lines have echoed through time, passing down the memory of those dramatic four days of fire in the city’s history.
The Enduring Legacy of “London’s Burning”
Even 350 years later, the impact of the Great Fire of London is still felt. It’s not just in the transformed architecture of the city, but also in the spirit of resilience that defines it.
Learn more about this major event, how the royals and the regulars dealt with this disaster as well as other historical events on our Great Fire of London walking tour.
Further reading: Was the Great Fire of London a terrorist attack?