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Title: An Historical Narrative of the Great and Terrible Fire of London, Sept. 2nd 1666
Author: Gideon Harvey
Release Date: September 20, 2011 [eBook #37489]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN HISTORICAL NARRATIVE OF THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE FIRE OF LONDON, SEPT. 2ND 1666***
This e-book, a pamphlet by Gideon Harvey, was originally published in 1769, and was prepared from a reprint in The Novels and Miscellaneous Works of Daniel De Foe, vol. 5 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1855), in which it complemented a reprint of Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year.
Archaic spellings have been retained as they appear in the original, and obvious printer's errors have been corrected without note.
No sooner was the plague so abated in London that the inhabitants began to return to their habitations, than a most dreadful fire broke out in the city, and raged as if it had commission to devour everything that was in its way. On the second of September, 1666, this dismal fire broke out at a baker's shop in Pudding-lane by Fish-street, in the lower part of the city, near Thames-street, (among rotten wooden houses ready to take fire, and full of combustible goods) in Billingsgate-ward; which ward in a few hours was laid in ashes. It began in the dead of the night, and the darkness very much increased the confusion and horror of the surprising calamity: when it had made havoc of some houses, it rushed down the hill towards the bridge; crossed Thames-street, invaded St. Magnus church at the bridge foot, and though that church was so great, yet it was not a sufficient barricado against this merciless conqueror; but having scaled and taken this fort, it shot flames with so much the greater advantage into all places round about, and a great building of houses upon the bridge is quickly thrown down to the ground; there, being stayed in its course at the bridge, the fire marched back through the city again, and ran along, with great noise and violence, through Thames-street, westward, where, having such combustible matter to feed on, and such a fierce wind upon its back, it prevailed with little resistance, unto the astonishment of the beholders. The fire is soon taken notice of, though in the midst of the night: Fire! Fire! Fire! doth resound through the streets; many start out of their sleep, look out of their windows; some dress themselves, and run to the place. The citizens affrighted and amazed, delayed the use of timely remedies; and what added to the misfortune, was, the people neglecting their houses, and being so fatally set on the hasty removing of their goods, which were, notwithstanding, devoured by the nimble increase of the flames. A raging east wind fomented it to an incredible degree, and in a moment raised the fire from the bottoms to the tops of the houses, and scattered prodigious flakes in all places, which were mounted so vastly high in the air, as if heaven and earth were threatened with the same conflagration. The fury soon became insuperable against the arts of men and power of engines; and beside the dismal scenes of flames, ruin and desolation, there appeared the most killing sight in the distracted looks of the citizens, the wailings of miserable women, the cries of poor children, and decripid old people; with all the marks of confusion and despair. No man that had the sense of human miseries could unconcernedly behold the dismal ravage and destruction made in one of the noblest cities in the world.
The lord mayor of the city comes with his officers; what a confusion there is!—counsel is taken away; and London, so famous for wisdom and dexterity, can now find neither brains nor hands to prevent its ruin: the decree was gone forth, London must now fall: and who can prevent it? No wonder, when so many pillars are removed, the building tumbles. The fire gets the mastery, and burns dreadfully, by the force of the wind; it spreads quickly; and goes on with such force and rage, overturning all so furiously, that the whole city is brought into jeopardy and desolation.
——Fire commission'd by the winds,
Begins on sheds, but, rolling in a round,
On palaces returns.
That night most of the Londoners had taken their last sleep in their houses; they little thought it would be so when they went into their beds: they did not in the least expect, that when the doors of their ears were unlocked, and the casements of their eyes were opened in the morning, to hear of such an enemy invading the city, and that they should see him with such fury enter the doors of their houses, break into every room, and look out at their windows with such a threatening countenance.
That which made the ruin more dismal was, that it began on the Lord's Day morning; never was there the like Sabbath in London; some churches were in flames that day; God seemed to come down and preach himself in them, as he did in Sinai when the mount burned with fire; such warm preaching those churches never had: in other churches ministers were preaching their farewell sermons; and people were hearing with quaking and astonishment: instead of a holy rest which Christians had taken that day, there was a tumultuous hurrying about the streets towards the place that burned, and more tumultuous hurrying upon the spirits of those that sat still, and had only the notice of the ear, of the strange and quick spreading of the fire.
Now the trained bands are up in arms, watching at every quarter for outlandishmen, because of the general fears and rumours that fire-balls were thrown into houses by several of them, to help on and provoke the too furious flames. Now goods are moved hastily from the lower parts of the city, and the body of the people begins to retire and draw upward. Yet some hopes were retained on the Sunday that the fire would be extinguished, especially by those who lived in remote parts; they could scarce imagine that the fire a mile off could reach their houses. All means to stop it proved ineffectual; the wind was so high, that flakes of fire and burning matter were carried across several streets, and spread the conflagration everywhere.
But the evening draws on, and now the fire is more visible and dreadful; instead of the black curtains of the night which used to spread over the city, now the curtains are yellow; the smoke that arose from the burning part seemed like so much flame in the night, which being blown upon the other parts by the wind, the whole city, at some distance, seemed to be on fire. Now hopes begin to sink, and a general consternation seizeth upon the spirits of the people: little sleep is taken in London this night; some are at work to quench the fire, others endeavour to stop its course, by pulling down houses; but all to no purpose; if it be a little allayed, or put to a stand, in some places, it quickly recruits, and recovers its force: it leaps, and mounts, and makes the more furious onset, drives back all opposers, snatches the weapons out of their hands, seizes upon the water-houses and engines, and makes them unfit for service. Some are upon their knees in the night, pouring out tears before the Lord, interceding for poor London in the day of its calamity; yet none can prevail to reverse that doom, which is gone forth against the city, the fire hath received its commission, and all attempts to hinder it are in vain.
Sunday night the fire had got as far as Garlick-hithe in Thames-street, and had crept up into Cannon-street, and levelled it with the ground, and still is making forward by the waterside, and upward to the brow of the hill on which the city was built.
On Monday, Gracechurch-street is all in flames, with Lombard street on the left, and part of Fenchurch-street on the right, the fire working (though not so fast) against the wind that way: before it, were pleasant and stately houses; behind it, ruinous and desolate heaps. The burning then was in fashion of a bow; a dreadful bow it was! such as few eyes had ever seen before!
Now the flames break in upon Cornhill, that large and spacious street, and quickly cross the way by the train of wood that lay in the streets untaken away, which had been pulled down from houses to prevent its spreading, and so they lick the whole streets as they go; they mount up to the tops of the highest houses, they descend down to the bottom of the lowest cellars; they march along both sides of the way, with such a roaring noise as never was heard in the city of London; no stately buildings so great as to resist their fury: the Royal Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded, and when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run through the galleries, filling them with flames; then descending the stairs, compasseth the walks, giveth forth flaming vollies, and filleth the court with fire: by and bye down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the building upon them, (the founder's statue only remaining) with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing.
September the third, the Exchange was burnt, and in three days almost all the city within the walls: the people having none to conduct them right, could do nothing to resist it, but stand and see their houses burn without remedy; the engines being presently out of order and useless!
Then! then! the city did shake indeed! and the inhabitants did tremble! they flew away in great amazement from their houses, lest the flames should devour them. Rattle! rattle! rattle! was the noise which the fire struck upon the ear round about, as if there had been a thousand iron chariots beating upon the stones; and if you turned your eyes to the opening of the streets where the fire was come, you might see in some places whole streets at once in flames, that issued forth as if they had been so many forges from the opposite windows, and which folding together united into one great volume throughout the whole street; and then you might see the houses tumble, tumble, tumble, from one end of the street to the other, with a great crash! leaving the foundations open to the view of the heavens.
Now fearfulness and terror doth surprise all the citizens of London; men were in a miserable hurry, full of distraction and confusions; they had not the command of their own thoughts, to reflect and enquire what was fit and proper to be done. It would have grieved the heart of an unconcerned person, to see the rueful looks, the pale cheeks, the tears trickling down from the eyes (where the greatness of sorrow and amazement could give leave for such a vent) the smiting of the breast, the wringing of the hands; to hear the sighs and groans, the doleful and weeping speeches of the distressed citizens, when they were bringing forth their wives (some from their child-bed) and their little ones (some from their sick beds) out of their houses, and sending them into the fields, with their goods.—Now the hope of London is gone; their heart is sunk: Now there is a general remove in the city, and that in a greater hurry than before the plague; their goods being in greater danger by the fire, than their persons were by the pestilence. Scarcely are some returned, but they must remove again; and not as before; now, without any more hopes of ever returning and living in those houses any more. The streets were crowded with people and carts, to carry what goods they could get out; they who were most active and had most money to pay carriage at exorbitant prices, saved much, the rest lost almost all. Carts, drays, coaches, and horses, as many as could have entrance into the city were laden, and any money is given for help; five, ten, twenty, thirty pounds for a cart, to bear forth to the fields some choice things which were ready to be consumed; and some of the countrymen had the conscience to accept the prices which the citizens did offer in their extremity. Now casks of wine and oil, and other commodities, tumbled along, and the owners shove as much as they can toward the gates: every one became a porter to himself and scarcely a back, either of man or woman, but had a burden on it in the streets. It was very melancholy to see such throngs of poor citizens coming in and going forth from the unburnt parts, heavy loaden, with pieces of their goods, but more heavy loaden with grief and sorrow of heart; so that it is wonderful they did not quite sink down under their burdens.
Monday night was a dreadful night! When the wings of the night had shadowed the light of the heavenly bodies, there was no darkness of night in London, for the fire shines now about with a fearful blaze, which yielded such light in the streets as it had been the sun at noon-day. The fire having wrought backward strangely against the wind to Billingsgate, &c., along Thames-street, eastward, runs up the hill to Tower-street; and having marched on from Gracechurch-street, maketh farther progress in Fenchurch-street; and having spread its rage beyond Queen-hithe in Thames-street, westward, mounts up from the waterside through Dowgate and Old Fish-street into Watling-street; but the great fury was in the broader streets; in the midst of the night it came into Cornhill, and laid it in the dust, and running along by the Stocks, there meets with another fire which came down Threadneedle-street, a little farther with another which came up Walbrook; a little farther with another which comes up Bucklersbury; and all these four meeting together, break into one of the corners of Cheapside, with such a dazzling glare, burning heat, and roaring noise, by the falling of so many houses together, that was very amazing! and though it was somewhat stopped in its swift course at Mercer's chapel, yet with great force, in a while it burns through it, and then with great rage proceedeth forward in Cheapside.
On Tuesday, was the fire burning up the very bowels of London; Cheapside is all in a light fire in a few hours' time; many fires meeting there as in centre; from a Soper-lane, Bow-lane, Bread-street, Friday-street, and Old Change, the fire comes up almost together, and breaks furiously into the broad street, and most of that side the way was together in flames: a dreadful spectacle! and then, partly by the fire which came down from Mercer's chapel, partly by the fall of the houses cross the way, the other side is quickly kindled, and doth not stand long after it.
Now the fire gets into Blackfriars, and so continues its course by the water, and makes up toward St. Paul's church on that side, and Cheapside fire besets the great building on this side; and the church, though all of stone outward, though naked of houses about it, and though so high above all buildings in the city, yet within awhile doth yield to the violent assaults of the all-conquering flames, and strangely takes fire at the top: now the lead melts and runs down, as if it had been snow before the sun; and the great beams and massy stones, with a hideous noise, fell on the pavement, and break through into Faith church underneath; and great flakes of stone scale and peel off strangely from the side of the walls: the conqueror having got this high fort, darts its flames round about; now Paternoster-row, Newgate-street, the Old Bailey, and Ludgate-hill, have submitted themselves to the devouring fire, which, with wonderful speed rush down the hill, into Fleet-street. Now Cheapside, fire marcheth along Ironmonger-lane, Old-jury, Laurence-lane, Milk-street, Wood-street, Gutter-lane, Foster-lane; now it comes along Lothbury, Cateaton-street, &c. From Newgate-street it assaults Christ church, conquers that great building, and burns through St. Martins-le-grand toward Aldersgate; and all so furiously as it would not leave a house standing.
Terrible flakes of fire mount up to the sky, and the yellow smoke of London ascendeth up towards heaven like the smoke of a great furnace; a smoke so great as darkeneth the sun at noon-day; if at any time the sun peeped forth it looked red like blood: the cloud of smoke was so great, that travellers did ride at noon-day some miles together in the shadow thereof, though there were no other clouds beside to be seen in the sky.
If Monday night was dreadful, Tuesday night was much more so, when far the greatest part of the city was consumed: many thousands, who, on Saturday had houses convenient in the city, both for themselves and to entertain others, have not where to lay their heads; and the fields are the only receptacle they can find for themselves and their few remaining goods: most of the late inhabitants lie all night in the open air, with no other canopy over them but that of the heavens. The fire is still making toward them, and threatening the suburbs. It was amazing to see how it had spread itself several miles in compass: among other things that night, the sight of Guildhall was a fearful spectacle, which stood the whole body of it together in view, for several hours after the fire had taken it, without flames (possibly because the timber was such solid oak) in a bright shining coal, as if it had been a palace of gold, or a great building of burnished brass.
On Wednesday morning, when people expected the suburbs would be burnt as well as the city, and with speed were preparing their flight, as well as they could with their luggage, into the countries and neighbouring villages; then the Lord had pity upon poor London: the wind is hushed; the commission of the fire is withdrawing, and it burns so gently, even when it meets with no opposition, that it was not hard to be quenched, in many places, with a few hands; an angel came which had power over fire. The citizens began to gather a little heart and encouragement in their endeavours to quench the fire. A check it had in Leadenhall by that great building: it had a stop in Bishopsgate-street, Fenchurch-street, Lime-street, Mark-lane, and toward the Tower; one means (under God) was the blowing up houses with gunpowder. It is stayed in Lothbury, Broad-street, and Coleman-street; toward the gates it burnt, but not with any great violence; at the Temple also it staid, and in Holborn, where it had got no great footing; and when once the fire was got under, it was kept under: and on Thursday, the flames were extinguished.
Few could take much sleep for divers nights together, when the fire was burning in the streets, and burning down the houses, lest their persons should have been consumed with their substance and habitations. But on Wednesday night, when the people, late of London, now of the fields, hoped to get a little rest on the ground where they had spread their beds, a more dreadful fear falls upon them than they had before, through a rumour that the French were coming armed against them to cut their throats, and spoil them of what they had saved out of the fire: they were now naked, weak, and in ill condition to defend themselves; and the hearts, especially of the females, do quake and tremble, and are ready to die within them; yet many citizens having lost their houses, and almost all they had, are fired with rage and fury; and they began to stir up themselves like lions, or bears bereaved of their whelps. Now, arm! arm! arm! doth resound through the fields and suburbs with a great noise. We may guess the distress and perplexity of the people this night; but it was somewhat alleviated when the falseness of the alarm was discovered.
Thus fell great London, that ancient and populous city! London! which was the queen city of the land; and as famous as most cities in the world! and yet how is London departed like smoke, and her glory laid in the dust! How is her destruction come, which no man thought of, and her desolation in a moment! How do the nations about gaze and wonder! How doth the whole land tremble at her fall! How do her citizens droop and hang down their heads, her women and virgins weep, and sit in the dust! Oh! the paleness that now sits upon the cheeks! the astonishment and confusion that covers the face, the dismal apprehensions that arise in the minds of most, concerning the dreadful consequences which are likely to be of this fall of London! How is the pride of London stained, her beauty spoiled; her arm broken, and her strength departed! her riches almost gone, and her treasures so much consumed!—every one is sensible of the stroke. Never was England in greater danger of being made a prey to a foreign power, than after the firing and fall of the city, which had the strength and treasure of the nation in it. How is London ceased, that rich, that joyous city! One corner, indeed, is left; but more than as many houses as were within the walls, are turned into ashes.
The merchants now have left the Royal Exchange; the buyers and sellers have now forsaken the streets: Gracechurch-street, Cornhill, Cheapside, Newgate-market, and the like places, which used to have throngs of traffickers, now are become empty of inhabitants; and instead of the stately houses which stood there last summer, they lie this winter in ruinous heaps. The glory of London is fled away like a bird; the trade of London is shattered and broken to pieces: her delights also are vanished, and pleasant things laid waste: now there is no chanting to the sound of the viol, nor dancing to the sweet music of instruments; no drinking wine in bowls, and stretching upon beds of lust; no excess of wine and banqueting; no feasts in halls; no amorous looks and wanton dalliances; no rustling silks and costly dresses; these things at that place are at an end. The houses for God's worship (which formerly were bulwarks against fire, partly through the walls about them, partly through the fervent prayers within them) now are devoured by the flames; the habitations of many who truly feared God have not escaped: the fire makes no discrimination between the houses of the godly and the houses of the ungodly; they are all made of the same combustible matter, and are kindled, as bodies are infected, by one another.
London was laid in ashes, and made a ruinous heap: it was a byword and a proverb, a gazing stock and an hissing and astonishment to all that passed by; it caused the ears of all to tingle that heard the rumour and report of what the righteous hand of God had brought upon her. A mighty city turned into ashes and rubbish, comparatively in a few hours; made a place fit for Zim and Okim to take up their abode in; the merciless element where it raged scarcely leaving a lintel for a cormorant or bittern to lodge in, or the remainder of a scorched window to sing in. A sad and terrible face was there in the ruinous parts of London: in the places where God had been served, nettles growing, owls screeching, thieves and cut-throats lurking. The voice of the Lord hath been crying, yea, roaring, in the city, of the dreadful judgments of plague and fire.
There was suddenly and unexpectedly seen, a glorious city laid waste; the habitations turned into rubbish; estates destroyed; the produce and incomes of many years hard labour and careful industry all in a few moments swept away and consumed by devouring flames.—To have seen dear relations, faithful servants, even yourselves and families, reduced from plentiful, affluent, comfortable trade and fortune, over-night, to the extremest misery next morning! without an house to shelter, goods to accommodate, or settled course of trade to support. Many forced, in old age, to begin the world anew; and exposed to all the hardships and inconveniences of want and poverty.
Should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my father's sepulchre, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
While the terrors occasioned by the conflagration remained in the minds of men, many eminent, learned, pious divines of the Church of England were more than ordinary diligent in the discharge of their holy function in this calamitous time; and many ministers who had not conformed, preached in the midst of the burning ruins, to a willing and attentive people: conventicles abounded in every part; it was thought hard to hinder men from worshipping God in any way they would, when there were no churches, nor ministers to look after them. Tabernacles, with all possible expedition, were everywhere raised for public worship till churches could be built. Among the established clergy were Dr. Tillotson, Dr. Stillingfleet, Dr. Whitcot, Dr. Horton, Dr. Patrick, Mr. White, Dr. Outram, Mr. Giffard, Mr. Nest, Mr. Meriton, and many others: divines of equal merit and moderation, ornaments of their sacred profession and the Established Church. Among the Presbyterians were Dr. Manton, Mr. Thomas Vincent, Mr. Wadsworth, Mr. Janeway, Mr. Thomas Doolittle, Mr. Annesley, Mr. Chester, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Watson, Dr. Jacomb, Mr. Nathaniel Vincent, Mr. Turner, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. Brooks, Dr. Owen, Mr. Nye, Mr. Caryl, Dr. Goodwin, and Mr. Barker.
The loss in goods and houses is scarcely to be valued, or even conceived. The loss of books was an exceeding great detriment, not to the owners only, but to learning in general. The library at Sion-college, and most private libraries in London, were burnt.
The fire of London most of all endamaged the Company of Printers and Stationers, most of whose habitations, storehouses, shops, stocks, and books, were not only consumed, but their ashes and scorched leaves conveyed aloft, and dispersed by the winds to places above sixteen miles distant, to the great admiration of beholders!
Notwithstanding the great losses by the fire, the devouring pestilence in the city the year preceding, and the chargeable war with the Dutch at that time depending, yet by the king's grace, the wisdom of the Parliament then sitting at Westminster, the diligence and activity of the lord mayor, aldermen, and commoners of the city, (who were likewise themselves the most considerable losers by the fatal accident) it was in the space of four or five years well nigh rebuilt. Divers churches, the stately Guildhall, many halls of companies, and other public edifices; all infinitely more uniform, more solid, and more magnificent than before; so that no city in Europe (scarcely in the universe) can stand in competition with it in many particulars.
The fire of London ending at the east end of Tower-street, the extent of which came just to the dock on the west side of the Tower, there was nothing between the Tower-walls and it but the breadth of the dock, and a great many old timber houses which were built upon the banks of the dock, and in the outward bulwark of the Tower and Tower-ditch (which then was very foul) to the very wall of the Tower itself. Which old houses, if the fire had taken hold of, the Tower itself, and all the buildings within it, had in all probability been destroyed. But such was the lieutenant's care of the great charge committed to him, that to prevent future damage, a few weeks after, he caused all these old houses which stood between the Tower-dock and the Tower-wall, to be pulled down: and not only them, but all those which were built upon or near the Tower-ditch, from the bulwark-gate along both the Tower-hills, and so to the Iron-gate; and caused strong rails of oak to be set up upon the wharf where those houses stood which were about four hundred: so that by these means, not only the White-tower but the whole outward Tower-wall and the ditch round about the same, are all visible to passengers, and afford a very fine prospect.
During the whole continuance of this unparalleled calamity, the king himself, roused from his pleasures, commiserated the care of the distressed, and acted like a true father of his people. In a manuscript from the secretary's office, we find these words, "All own the immediate hand of God, and bless the goodness and tender care of the king, who made the round of the fire usually twice every day, and, for many hours together, on horseback and on foot; gave orders for pursuing the work, by commands, threatenings, desires, example, and good store of money, which he himself distributed to the workers, out of an hundred pound bag which he carried with him for that purpose." At the same time, his royal highness, the Duke of York also, and many of the nobility, were as diligent as possible; they commended and encouraged the forward, assisted the miserable sufferers, and gave a most generous example to all, by the vigorous opposition they made against the devouring flames.
The king and the duke, with the guards, were almost all the day on horseback, seeing to all that could be done, either for quenching the fire, or for carrying off persons or goods to the fields. The king was never observed to be so much struck with anything in his whole life.
In the dreadful fire of London, the king and the duke did their utmost in person to extinguish it; and after it had been once mastered, and broke out again in the Temple, the duke watching there all night, put an effectual stop to it by blowing up houses.
Afterward, when the multitudes of poor people were forced to lodge in the fields, or crowd themselves into poor huts and booths built with deal boards, his majesty was frequent in consulting all ways to relieve these wretches, as well by proclamations, as by his orders to the justices of the peace, to send provisions into Moorfields and other places; and moreover he sent them out of the Tower the warlike provisions which were there deposited for the seamen and soldiers, to keep them from starving in this extremity.
At the same time he proclaimed a fast throughout England and Wales; and ordered that the distressed condition of the sufferers should be recommended to the charity of all well-disposed persons, upon that day, to be afterwards distributed by the hands of the lord mayor of London. Lastly, to shew his special care for the city's restoration, in council, wherein he first prohibited the hasty building any houses till care should be taken for its re-edification, so as might best secure it from the like fatal accident; for the encouragement of others, he promised to rebuild his Custom-house, and to enlarge it, for the benefit of the merchants and trade; which he performed at his own particular charge, and at the expense of ten thousand pounds.
At the news of the fire of London all the good subjects of Ireland were seized with the utmost consternation upon that deplorable accident in compassion to the sufferers, the lord-lieutenant (the Duke of Ormond) set on foot a subscription for their relief, which rose to a higher value than could be expected in so distressed a country, where there was not money to circulate for the common necessities of the people, or to pay the public taxes: therefore, the subscription was made in beeves, thirty thousand of which were sent to London.
We must for ever with humility acknowledge the justice of God in punishing the whole nation in the late conflagration in London. We know they were not the greatest sinners on whom the tower of Siloam fell; and doubtless all our sins did contribute to the filling up that measure, which being full, drew down the wrath of God upon our city; but it very much reviveth us to behold the miraculous blessing of God upon your Majesty's endeavours for the preservation of that part of the city which is left. We hope God will direct your royal heart, and this fortunate island, in a few days to lay a foundation-stone in the rebuilding of that royal city; the beauty and praise whereof shall fill the whole earth. For the encouragement of this noble work we have prepared several bills; one for the establishing a judicatory for the speedy determining all actions and causes of action that may arise between landlords and tenants upon this sad accident. Though I persuade myself no Englishman would be exempted from making some offering to carry on the pious undertaking, yet the exemplary charity of your majesty's twelve reverend judges is fit with honour to be mentioned before your majesty: they are willing to spend all their sand that doth not run out in your majesty's immediate service, in dispensing justice in their several courts to your people, in hearing and determining the controversies that may arise upon old agreements, and making new rules between owners and tenants, for their mutual agreement in this glorious action. We have likewise prepared a bill for the regularity of the new buildings, that they may be raised with more conveniency, beauty, and security than they had before: some streets we have ordered to be opened and enlarged, and many obstructions to be removed; but all with your majesty's approbation. This, we conceive, cannot be done with justice, unless a compensation be given to those that shall be losers; we have, therefore laid an imposition of twelve pence upon every chaldron, and every ton of coals that shall be brought into the port of London for ten years, the better to enable the Lord Mayor and aldermen to recompense those persons whose ground shall be taken from them.
Rome was not built in a day: nor can we in the close of this session finish the rules for the dividing the parishes, rebuilding of the churches, and the ornamental parts of the city, that we intended; these things must rest till another session: but we know your majesty in the meantime will take them into your princely consideration, and make it your care that the houses of God, and your royal chamber, be decently and conveniently restored.
The fire of London had exercised the wits and inventions of many heads, and especially put several ingenious persons on contriving and setting up offices for insuring of houses from fire; since which many of those offices are framed.
All persons were indefatigably industrious in the great work of rebuilding; and when all provisions were made for the city's resurrection, the famous Sir Jonas Moore first of all produced the beautiful Fleet-street, according to the appointed model; and from that beginning the city grew so hastily toward a general perfection, that within the compass of a few years it far transcended its former splendour.
In the meantime, Gresham College was converted into an exchange, and in the apartments the public business of the city was transacted, instead of Guildhall.
To the same place, Alderman Backwell, a noted banker, removed from Lombard-street. Alderman Meynell, and divers other bankers of Lombard-street were preserved in their estates, and settled in and about Broad-street.
The Royal Society being driven out from Gresham College, Henry Howard, brother to the Duke of Norfolk, late Earl Marshal of England, invited that noble body to hold their meetings at Arundel House, where he assigned them very convenient rooms, and, on New Year's day, being himself a member of that society, he very generously presented them and their successors with a fair library of books; being the whole Norfolkian library, with permission of changing such books as were not proper for their collection.
Sir Robert Viner, a very great banker, providentially removed all his concerns twenty-four hours before the furious fire entered Lombard-street, and settled in the African-house, which was then kept near the middle of Broad-street, till such time as he built that noble structure in Lombard-street, now used for the General Post Office, which was purchased by King Charles the Second for that purpose. The neatly wrought conduit in the Stocks market-place, at the west end of Lombard-street (the spot on which the Lord Mayor's Mansion House is since erected) whereon was placed a large statue of King Charles the Second on horseback, trampling upon an enemy, was set up at the sole cost and charges of that worthy citizen and alderman, Sir Robert Viner, knight and baronet.
The excise office was kept in Southampton-fields, near Southampton (now Bedford House.)
The General Post Office was moved to the Two Black Pillars, in Bridges-street, Covent Garden.
The affairs of the Custom House were transacted in Mark-lane, at a house called Lord Bayning's, till the Custom House was rebuilt in a much more magnificent, uniform, and commodious manner, by King Charles the Second, which cost him £10,000.
The office for hearth money was kept near Billeter-lane, in Leadenhall-street.
The king's great wardrobe, together with the fair dwelling houses of the master and officers, near Puddle Wharf, being consumed, that office has since been kept in York House-buildings.
The buildings of Doctor's Commons, in the Parish of St. Bennet, Paul's Wharf, near St. Paul's, being entirely consumed by the dreadful fire, their offices were held at Exeter House, in the Strand, until the year 1672, when they returned to their former place, rebuilt in a very splendid and convenient manner, at the proper cost and charges of the said doctors.
The college of physicians had purchased a house and ground at the end of Amen-street, whereon the famous Dr. Harvey, at his proper charge, did erect a magnificent structure, both for a library, and a public hall; this goodly edifice could not escape the fury of the dreadful fire; and the ground being but a lease-hold, the fellows purchased a fair piece of ground in Warwick-lane, whereon they have erected a very magnificent edifice, with a noble apartment for the containing an excellent library, given them partly by the Marquis of Dorchester, but chiefly by that eminent professor, Sir Theodore Mayerne, knight.
The former burse (or Royal Exchange) began to be erected in the year 1566, just one hundred years before it was burnt, at the cost and charge of that noble merchant, Sir Thomas Gresham. It was built of brick, and yet was the most splendid burse then in Europe.
It is now rebuilt within and without, of excellent stone, with such curious and admirable architecture, especially for a front, a high turret or steeple, wherein are an harmonious chime of twelve bells, and for arch-work, that it surpasses all other burses. It is built quadrangular, with a large court wherein the merchants may assemble, and the greatest part, in case of rain or hot sunshine, may be sheltered in side galleries or porticos. The whole fabric cost fifty thousand pounds, whereof one-half was disbursed by the Chamber of London, or corporation of the city, and the other half by the Company of Mercers.
Before the dreadful fire, there were all around the quadrangle of this Royal Exchange the statues of the sovereign princes, since what was called the Norman Conquest, and by the care and cost of the city companies most of those niches were again filled with the like curious statues, in marble or alabaster.
St. Paul's Cathedral was new building at the time of the fire, the stone work almost finished; but, it is now rebuilt with greater solidity, magnificence and splendour, by the most renowned architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
Not far from the college of Doctor's Commons stood the College of Heralds, in an ancient house called Derby House, being built by Thomas Stanly, Earl of Derby, who married Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother of King Henry the Seventh, where their records were preserved. This college was burnt down, but the books and records were preserved, and placed, by the king's appointment, at the lower end of the Court of Requests.
Since the late dreadful fire this college has been handsomely rebuilt, upon St. Bennet's-hill, near Doctor's Commons, where their library is now kept. The house of St. Bartholomew's Hospital escaped the fury of the great fire, but most of the estates belonging to it were consumed.
The companies' halls were rebuilt, all at the charges of each fraternity, with great magnificence; being so many noble structures or palaces, with gallant frontispieces, stately courts, spacious rooms. The halls, especially, from which the whole are named, are not only ample enough to feast all the livery in each company, some to the number of three or four hundred, but many of them are fit to receive a crowned head with all its nobles—those of each of the twelve companies especially. The Company of Mercers, beside their hall, have a sumptuous and spacious chapel for divine service.
Those city gates which were burnt down, as Ludgate and Newgate, were rebuilt with great solidity and magnificence.
The attempt to make Fleet brook or ditch navigable to Holborn Bridge, was a mighty chargeable and beautiful work, and though it did not fully answer the designed purpose, it was remarkable for the curious stone bridges over it, and the many huge vaults on each side thereof, to treasure up Newcastle coals for the use of the poor.
The whole damage sustained by the fire is almost inconceivable and incredible; but the following method of computation hath been taken, to form some sort of gross estimate; and at the time was accounted very moderate:—
|Thirteen thousand two hundred houses, one with another, at twenty-five pounds rent, at the low rate of twelve years' purchase||3,960,000|
|Eighty-seven parish churches, at eight thousand pounds each||696,000|
|Six consecrated chapels, at two thousand pounds each||12,000|
|The Royal Exchange||50,000|
|The Custom House||10,000|
|Fifty-two halls of companies, most of which were magnificent structures and palaces, at fifteen hundred pounds each||78,000|
|Three city gates, at three thousand pounds each||9,000|
|Jail of Newgate||15,000|
|Four stone bridges||6,000|
|Guildhall, with the courts and offices belonging to it||40,000|
|Wood Street Compter||3,000|
|Toward rebuilding St. Paul's Church, which, at that time, was new building; the stonework being almost finished||2,000,000|
|Wares, household stuff, monies, and moveable goods lost and spoiled||2,000,000|
|Hire of porters, carts, waggons, barges, boats, &c., for removing wares, household stuff, &c., during the fire, and some small time after||200,000|
|Printed books and papers in shops and warehouses||150,000|
|Wine, tobacco, sugar, plums, &c., of which the city was at that time very full||1,500,000|
|Cutting a navigable river to Holborn Bridge||27,000|
Besides melioration money paid to several proprietors who had their ground taken away, for the making of wharves, enlarging the old, or making new streets, market places, &c.
The fire spread itself, beside breadth, from almost Tower-hill, to St. Dunstan's church in Fleet-street. After it had burnt almost three days and three nights, some seamen taught the people to blow up some of the next houses with gunpowder; which stopped the fire: so that, contrary to the inscription on the Monument, there were human counsels in the stopping of the fire. It stopped at Holborn Bridge, at St. Sepulchre's church, when the church was burnt, in Aldgate and Cripplegate, and other places on the wall; in Austin Friars, the Dutch church stopped it, and escaped. It stopped in Bishopsgate-street, in Leadenhall-street, in the midst of Fenchurch-street, and near the Tower. Alderman Jefferies lost tobacco to the value of twenty thousand pounds.
The fire began September 2nd, 1666, at Mr. Farryner's, a baker, in Pudding-lane, between one and two in the morning, and continued burning till the 6th; did overrun three hundred and seventy-three acres, within the walls. Eighty-nine parish churches, besides chapels burnt. Eleven parishes, within the walls standing. Houses burnt, thirteen thousand and two hundred.
Jonas Moore, }
Ralph Gatrix, } Surveyors.
The superstition and zeal of those times made canonization much cheaper in a Protestant than a Popish Church. A vehement preacher was a chief saint among the godly, and a few warm expressions were esteemed little less than prophecies.
In the dedication to the Rev. Mr. Reeves's sermon, preached 1655, are the following queries:—
"Can sin and the city's safety, can impenitency and impunity stand long together? Fear you not some plague? Some coal blown with the breath of the Almighty, that may sparkle and kindle, and burn you to such cinders, that not a wall or pillar may be left to testify the rememberance of a city?"
The same gentleman says: "Your looking-glasses will be snatched away, your mirrors cracked, your diamonds shivered in pieces; this goodly city all in shreds. Ye may seek for a pillar or threshold of your ancient dwellings, but not find one. All your spacious mansions and sumptuous monuments are then gone. Not a porch, pavement, ceiling, staircase, turret, lantern, bench, screen, pane of a window, post, nail, stone, or dust of your former houses to be seen. No, with wringing hands you may ask, where are those sweet places where we traded, feasted, slept? where we lived like masters, and shone like morning stars? No, the houses are fallen, and the householders dropped with them. We have nothing but naked streets, naked fields for shelter; not so much as a chamber to couch down our children or repose our own members, when we are spent or afflicted with sickness. Woe unto us! our sins have pulled down our houses, shaken down our city. We are the most harbourless people in the world; like foreigners rather than natives; yea, rather like beasts than men. Foxes have holes and fowls have nests, but we have neither holes or nests: our sins have deprived us of couch and covert. We should be glad if an hospital would receive us, dens or caves shelter us. The bleak air and cold ground are our only shades and refuges. But, alas! this is but the misery of the stonework, of arches, roofs, &c."
The following paragraph is taken from Mr. Rosewell's causes and cures of the pestilence, printed at London, in the year of the great plague 1665—a year before the fire of London.
"Is it not of the Lord that the people shall labour in the very fire, and weary themselves for vanity? It is of the Lord, surely! It comes to pass, by the secret counsel of God, that these houses and cities which they build, shall either come to be consumed by fire; or else, the people shall weary themselves in vain, for vanity to no purpose; seeing it comes so soon to be destroyed and ruinated, what they build."
Sept. 2.—About two o'clock this morning, a sudden and lamentable fire broke out in this city; beginning not far from Thames-street, near London Bridge, which continues still with great violence, and hath already burnt down to the ground many houses thereabouts: which said accident affected his Majesty with that tenderness and compassion, that he was pleased to go himself in person, with his royal highness, to give orders that all possible means should be used for quenching the fire, or stopping its further spreading: in which care the right honourable the Earl of Craven was sent by his Majesty, to be more particularly assisting to the Lord Mayor and magistrates; and several companies of his guards sent into the city, to be helpful in what means they could in so great a calamity.
Whitehall, Sept. 8.—The ordinary course of this paper being interrupted by a sad and lamentable accident of fire, lately happened in the city of London, it hath been thought fit to satisfy the minds of so many of his Majesty's good subjects who must needs be concerned for the issue of so great an accident, to give this short but true account of it.
On the 2nd inst., at one o'clock in the morning, there happened to break out a sad and deplorable fire in Pudding-lane, New Fish-street, which falling out at that hour of the night and, in a quarter of the town so close built with wooden pitched houses, spread itself so far before day, and with such distraction to the inhabitants and neighbours, that care was not taken for the timely preventing the further diffusion of it, by pulling down houses, as ought to have been; so that the lamentable fire in a short time became too big to be mastered by any engines, or working near it. It fell out most unhappily too, that a violent easterly wind fomented it, and kept it burning all that day, and the night following, spreading itself up to Gracechurch-street, and downward from Cannon-street to the water side, as far as the Three Cranes in the Vintry.
The people in all parts about it were distracted by the vastness of it, and their particular care was to carry away their goods. Many attempts were made to prevent the spreading of it by pulling down houses, and making great intervals; but all in vain, the fire seizing upon the timber and rubbish, and so continuing itself, even through those places, and raging in a bright flame all Monday and Tuesday, notwithstanding his Majesty's own, and his royal highness's indefatigable and personal pains to apply all possible means to prevent it; calling upon and helping the people with their guards, and a great number of nobility and gentry unweariedly assisting therein, for which they were requited with a thousand blessings from the poor distressed people. By the favour of God the wind slackened a little on Tuesday night, and the flames meeting with brick buildings at the Temple, by little and little it was observed to lose its force on that side, so that on Wednesday morning we began to hope well, and his royal highness never departing nor slackening his personal care, wrought so well that day, assisted in some parts by the lords of the council before and behind it, that a stop was put to it at the Temple Church; near Holborn Bridge; Pye Corner; Aldersgate; Cripplegate; near the lower end of Coleman-street; at the end of Basinghall-street; by the Postern at the upper end of Bishopsgate-street; and Leadenhall-street; at the Standard, in Cornhill; at the church in Fenchurch-street; near Clothworkers' Hall in Mincing-lane; in the middle of Mark-lane; and at the Tower-dock.
On Thursday, by the blessing of God, it was wholly beat down and extinguished. But so as that evening it burst out afresh at the Temple, by the falling of some sparks (as is supposed, upon a pile of wooden buildings); but his royal highness, who watched there the whole night in person, by the great labour and diligence used, and especially by applying powder to blow up the houses about it, before day, happily mastered it.
Divers strangers, Dutch and French, were, during the fire, apprehended, upon suspicion that they contributed maliciously to it, who are all imprisoned, and informations prepared to make severe inquisition hereupon by my Lord Chief Justice Keeling, assisted by some of the Lords of the privy council, and some principal members of the city: notwithstanding which suspicions, the manner of the burning all along in a train, and so blown forward in all its ways by strong winds, makes us conclude the whole was an effect of an unhappy chance, or to speak better, the heavy hand of God upon us, for our sins, shewing us the terror of his judgment, in thus raising the fire, and immediately after, his miraculous and never enough to be acknowledged mercy, in putting a stop to it when we were in the last despair, and that all attempts for the quenching it, however industriously pursued, seemed insufficient. His Majesty then sat hourly in council, and ever since hath continued making rounds about the city, in all parts of it where the danger and mischief was greatest, till this morning that he hath sent his Grace the Duke of Albemarle, whom he hath called for to assist him in this great occasion: to put his happy and successful hand to the finishing this memorable deliverance.
About the Tower, the seasonable orders given for pulling down houses to secure the magazines of powder, was most especially successful, that part being up the wind; notwithstanding which, it came almost to the very gates of it, so as, by the early provision, the several stores of war lodged in the Tower were entirely saved; and we have hitherto this infinite cause particularly to give God thanks that the fire did not happen in any of those places where his Majesty's naval stores are kept; so as though it hath pleased God to visit us with his own hand, he hath not, by disfurnishing us with the means of carrying on the war, subjected us to our enemies.
It must be observed, that this fire happened at a part of the town, where, though the commodities were not very rich, yet they were so bulky that they could not be removed, so that the inhabitants of that part where it first began, have sustained very great loss; but, by the best inquiry we can make, the other parts of the town, where the commodities were of greater value, took the alarm so early, that they saved most of their goods of value, which possibly may have diminished the loss; though some think, that if the whole industry of the inhabitants had been applied to the stopping of the fire, and not to the saving their particular goods, the success might have been much better; not only to the public, but to many of them in their own particulars.
Through this sad accident it is easy to be imagined how many persons were necessitated to remove themselves and goods into the open fields, where they were forced to continue some time, which could not but work compassion in the beholders; but his Majesty's care was most signal on this occasion, who, besides his personal pains, was frequent in consulting all ways for relieving those distressed persons, which produced so good effect, as well by his Majesty's proclamations and orders issued to the neighbouring justices of the peace, to encourage the sending provisions into the markets, which are publicly known, as by other directions, that when his Majesty, fearing lest other orders might not yet have been sufficient, had commanded the victualler of his navy to send bread into Moorfields for the relief of the poor, which, for the more speedy supply, he sent in biscuit out of the sea stores; it was found that the market had been already so well supplied that the people, being unaccustomed to that kind of bread, declined it, and so it was returned in great part to his Majesty's stores again, without any use made of it.
And we cannot but observe, to the confusion of all his Majesty's enemies, who endeavoured to persuade the world abroad of great parties and disaffection at home, against his Majesty's government, that a greater instance of the affections of this city could never be given, than hath now been given in this sad and most deplorable accident, when, if at any time, disorder might have been expected, from the losses, distractions, and almost desperation of some persons in their private fortunes—thousands of people not having habitations to cover them. And yet all this time it hath been so far from any appearance of designs or attempts against his Majesty's government, that his Majesty and his royal brother, out of their care to stop and prevent the fire, exposing frequently their persons, with very small attendants, in all parts of the town, sometimes even to be intermixed with those who laboured in the business; yet, nevertheless, there hath not been observed so much as a murmuring word to fall from any; but, on the contrary, even those persons whose losses render their conditions most desperate, and to be fit objects of others' prayers, beholding those frequent instances of his Majesty's care of his people, forgot their own misery, and filled the streets with their prayers for his Majesty, whose trouble they seemed to compassionate before their own.
Whitehall, Sept. 12.—His Majesty, in a religious sense of God's heavy hand upon this kingdom, in the late dreadful fire happened in the city of London, hath been pleased to order that the tenth of October next, be observed as a general and solemn fast throughout England, Wales, &c.; and that the distresses of those who have more particularly suffered in that calamity be on that day most effectually recommended to the charity of all well-disposed Christians, in the respective churches and chapels of this kingdom, to be afterward, by the hands of the Lord Mayor of the city of London, distributed for the relief of such as shall be found most to need it.
Whitehall, Sept. 15.—His Majesty pursuing, with a gracious impatience, his pious care for the speedy restoration of his city of London, was pleased to pass, the twelfth instant, his declaration, in council to his city of London upon that subject, full of that princely tenderness and affection which he is pleased on all occasions to express for that, his beloved city.
In the first place, upon the desires of the lord mayor and court of aldermen, he is pleased to prohibit the hasty building of any edifice, till such speedy care be taken for the re-edification of the city as may best secure it from the like accidents, and raise it to a greater beauty and comeliness than formerly it had; the lord mayor and aldermen being required to pull down what shall, contrary to this prohibition be erected, and return the names of such refractory persons to his Majesty and his council, to be proceeded against according to their deserts.
That any considerable number of men addressing themselves to the court of aldermen, and manifesting in what places their ground lies upon which they intend to build, shall in short time receive such order and direction that they shall have no cause to complain.
That no person erect any house or building, but of brick or stone, that they be encouraged to practise the good husbandry of strongly arching their cellars, by which divers persons have received notable benefit in the late fire.
That Fleet-street, Cheapside, Cornhill, and all other eminent streets, be of a breadth to prevent the mischief one side may receive from the other by fire; that no streets, especially near the water be so narrow as to make the passages uneasy or inconvenient; nor any allies or lanes erected, but upon necessity, for which there shall be published rules and particular orders.
That a fair quay and wharf be left on all the river side, no houses to be erected, but at a distance declared by the rules. That none of those houses next the river be inhabited by brewers, dyers, or sugar-bakers, who by their continual smokes contribute much to the unhealthiness of the adjacent places; but that such places be allotted them by the lord mayor and court of aldermen, as may be convenient for them, without prejudice of the neighbourhood.
That the lord mayor and court of aldermen cause an exact survey to be made of the ruins, that it may appear to whom the houses and ground did belong, what term the occupiers were possessed of, what rents were paid, and to whom the reversions and inheritances did appertain, for the satisfying all interests, that no man's right be sacrificed to the public convenience. After which a plot and model shall be framed of the whole building, which no doubt may so well please all persons, as to induce them willingly to conform to such rules and orders as shall be agreed to.
His majesty likewise recommends the speedy building some of those many churches which have been burnt, to the charity and magnanimity of well-disposed persons, whom he will direct and assist in the model, and by his bounty encourage all other ways that shall be desired.
And to encourage the work by his example, his majesty will use all expedition to rebuild the Custom House, and enlarge it for the more convenience of the merchants, in the place where it formerly stood: and upon all his own lands, will part with any thing of his own right and benefit, for the advancement of the public benefit and beauty of the city; and remit to all persons who shall erect any new buildings, according to this his gracious declaration, all duties arising from hearth-money for the space of seven years; as by the declaration itself more at large appears.
Whitehall, Sep. 18. This day was presented to his Majesty, by his highness the Duke of York, Edmundbury Godfrey, Esq.; one of his Majesty's justices of the peace for the county of Middlesex, and city and liberty of Westminster, who, after the public thanks and acknowledgment of his eminent services done in helping to suppress the late fire in the city and liberty of London, received the honour of knighthood.
Whitehall, Sep. 29. This day, by warrant from his Majesty's principal secretaries of state, the person of Valentine Knight was committed to the custody of one of his Majesty's messengers in ordinary, for having presumed to publish in print certain propositions for rebuilding the city of London, with considerable advantages to his Majesty's revenue by it, as if his Majesty would draw a benefit to himself from so public a calamity of his people of which his Majesty is known to have so deep sense, that he is pleased to seek rather by all means to give them ease under it.
Westminster, Sep. 28. This day the House of Commons resolved, that the humble thanks of the house should be given his Majesty for his great care and endeavour to prevent the burning of the city.
Leghorn, Oct. 18. The merchants here, in consideration of the losses sustained in London, by the late fire, have out of their charity, raised near 300l. towards their relief, which they intend speedily to return, to be distributed as his Majesty pleases.
London, Oct. 29. This day Sir William Bolton, lord mayor for the year ensuing, went in his coach to Westminster, attended by his brethren the aldermen, the sheriffs, and other eminent citizens in their coaches, where he was sworn with the usual ceremonies.
Whitehall, Oct. 30. Sir Jonas Moore, with some other proprietors of houses lately demolished by the fire, in Fleet-street, having prayed liberty to rebuild the same, according to such model, form and scantling as should be set them by the committee appointed by his Majesty for the advancement of that great work, (to which they offered with all willingness to submit and conform themselves); it was this day ordered by his Majesty in council, that the said proprietors shall have their liberty to re-edify their buildings accordingly.
By Stat. 19 and 20 Car. 2, any three or more of the judges were authorised to hear and determine all differences between landlords and tenants, or occupiers of buildings or other things by the fire demolished. They were, without the formalities of courts of law or equity, upon the inquisition or verdict of jurors, testimonies of witnesses upon oath, examination of persons interested, or otherwise, to determine all differences: they were, in complaints, to issue out notes of time and place for the parties' attendance, and proceed to make orders: their determinations were final, without appeal, writ of error, or reversal. Their orders were to be obeyed by all persons, and binding to representatives for ever. The judgments and determinations were recorded in a book by them signed: which book is placed and intrusted in the custody of the lord mayor and aldermen for the time being, to remain as a perpetual and lasting record. The judges were not to take any fee or reward, directly or indirectly, for any thing they did by virtue of that act. All differences not being determined, the act was continued in force till Sept. 29, 1672.
In gratitude to the memory of these judges, the city caused their pictures, in full proportion in their scarlet robes, to be set up in the Guildhall, with their names underneath, viz.
The city rose out of its ashes after the dreadful fire, as it was first built, not presently, by building continued streets, in any one part, but first here a house and there a house, to which others by degrees were joined; till, at last, single houses were united into whole streets; whole streets into one beautiful city; not merely, as before, a great and magnificent city, for in a short time it not only excelled itself, but any other city in the whole world that comes near it, either in largeness, or number of inhabitants.
The beginning of the year 1670, the city of London was rebuilt, with more space and splendour than had been before seen in England. The act for rebuilding it was drawn by Sir Matthew Hale, with so true judgment and foresight, that the whole city was raised out of its ashes without any suits of law; which if that bill had not prevented them, would have brought a second charge on the city, not much less than the fire itself had been. And upon that, to the amazement of all Europe, London was, in four years' time, rebuilt with so much beauty and magnificence, that they who saw it in both states, before and after the fire, could not reflect on it, without wondering where the wealth could be found to bear so vast a loss as was made by the fire, and so prodigious an expense as was laid out in the rebuilding. This good and great work was very much forwarded by Sir William Turner, lord mayor, 1669. He was so much honoured and beloved, that at the end of the year they chose him again; but he refused it, as being an unusual thing.
Whatever the unfortunate citizens of London suffered by this dreadful fire, it is manifest, that a greater blessing could not have happened for the good of posterity; for, instead of very narrow, crooked, and incommodious streets, dark, irregular and ill-contrived wooden houses, with their several stories jutting out, or hanging over each other, whereby the circulation of the air was obstructed, noisome vapours harboured, and verminious, pestilential atoms nourished, as is manifest, by the city not being clear of the plague for twenty-five years before, and only free from contagion three years in above seventy; enlarging of the streets, and modern way of building, there is such a free circulation of sweet air through the streets, that offensive vapours are expelled, and the city freed from pestilential symptoms: so that it may now justly be averred that there is no place in the kingdom where the inhabitants enjoy a better state of health, or live to a greater age, than the citizens of London.
Whether the fire came casually, or on design, remains still a secret: though the general opinion might be that it was casual, yet there were presumptions on the other side of a very odd nature. Great calamities naturally produce various conjectures; men seldom considering, that the most stupendous effects often proceed from the most minute causes, or most remote accidents. People failed not to give a scope to their imagination, and to form guesses concerning the causes and authors of this afflicting and astonishing misfortune.
The king in his speech calls it "God's judgment;" the pious and religious, and at first all other men, generally and naturally ascribed it to the just vengeance of Heaven, on a city where vice and immorality reigned so openly and shamefully, and which had not been sufficiently humbled by the raging pestilence of the foregoing year.
Sir Edward Turner, speaker of the House of Commons, at presenting bills for the royal assent, says, "We must for ever with humility, acknowledge the justice of God in punishing this whole nation by the late dreadful conflagration of London."
The act of common-council for rebuilding, says, "The fire was by all justly resented as a most sad and dismal judgment of Heaven."
But time soon produced abundance of suspicions and variety of opinions concerning the means and instruments made use of.
There were some so bold as even to suspect the king. Those reports, and Oates's and Bedloe's narratives, are suppositions too monstrous, and the evidence too wretchedly mean to deserve consideration.
The citizens were not well satisfied with the Duke of York's behaviour: they thought him a little too gay and negligent for such an occasion; that his look and air discovered the pleasure he took in that dreadful spectacle; on which account, a jealousy that he was concerned in it was spread with great industry, but with very little appearance of truth.
Some suspected it was an insidious way of the Dutch and French making war upon the English; their two fleets being then nearest to a conjunction. What increased the suspicion was, that some criminals that suffered were said to be under the direction of a committee at London, and received orders from another council in Holland.
Not long before the fire, the French sent the governor of Chousey in a small boat with a letter to Major-General Lambert, then prisoner in Guernsey, to offer him terms to contrive the delivery of that island to them.
Divers strangers, both French and Dutch, were apprehended, upon suspicion, imprisoned, and strictly examined. It was said, a Dutch boy of ten years old, confessed, that his father, his uncle, and himself, had thrown fire-balls into the house where the fire began, through a window which stood open.
The English fleet had some time before landed on the Vly, an island near the Texel, and burnt it; upon which some came to De Wit, and offered, in revenge, if they were but assisted, to set London on fire; but he rejected the [villanous] proposal; and thought no more on it till he heard the city was burnt.
The fire which laid so great part of London in ashes, gave a fresh occasion to the enemies of the republicans to charge them with being the malicious authors thereof; because the fire happened to break out the third of September, a day esteemed fortunate to the republicans, on account of the victories of Dunbar and Worcester, obtained by Oliver Cromwell, when general of the armies of the commonwealth of England.
In the April before, some commonwealth men were found in a plot, and hanged; and at their execution confessed, that they had been requested, to assist in a design of firing London on the second of September.
At the trial of the conspirators at the Old Bailey, it appeared, a design was laid to surprise the town and fire the city; the third of September was pitched on for the attempt, as being found by Lilly's almanack, and a scheme erected for that purpose, to be a lucky day. The third of September was a day auspicious and full of expectation from one party, but at this time ominous and direful to the nation. The city was burnt at the time projected and prognosticated, which gave a strong suspicion, though not a proof, of the authors and promoters of it.
The Dutch were pressed by the commonwealth men to invade England, and were assured of powerful assistance, and hopes of a general insurrection, but they would not venture in so hazardous a design.
Though several persons were imprisoned, it was not possible to discover, or prove, that the house where this dreadful calamity began, was fired on purpose. Whether it was wilful or accidental was a long time a party dispute.
The great talk at that time was, who were the burners of the city? some said it was contrived and carried on by a conspiracy of the Papists and Jesuits, which was afterward offered to be made appear in the popish plot. And there came in so many testimonies to prove that it was the plotted weapon of the papists, as caused the parliament to appoint a committee to enquire into it, and receive informations.
By the dreadful fire in 1666, multitudes of people lost their estates, goods and merchandizes; and many families, once in flourishing circumstances, were reduced to beggary. From the inscription on the plinth of the lower pedestal of the Monument, it appears that the Papists were the authors of this fire; the Parliament being of this persuasion, addressed the king to issue a proclamation, requiring all Popish Priests and Jesuits to depart the kingdom within a month; and appointed a committee, who received evidence of some Papists, who were seen throwing fire-balls into houses, and of others who had materials for it in their pockets. This sad disaster produced some kind of liberty to the Non-conformists.
A sudden and dreadful massacre of the Protestants was feared; and the suspicion confirmed by particular kinds of knives found after the fire in barrels.
Several evidences were given to the committee that men were seen in several parts of the city casting fire-balls into houses; some that were brought to the guard of soldiers, and to the Duke of York, but were never heard of afterwards. Some weeks after, Sir Robert Brooks, chairman of the committee, went to France, and as he was ferried over a river, was drowned, with a kinsman of his, and the business drowned with him.
Oates, in his narrative, says: The dreadful fire in 1666 was principally managed by Strange, the provincial of the Jesuits, in which the society employed eighty or eighty-six men, and spent seven hundred fire balls; and over all their vast expense, they were fourteen thousand pounds gainers by the plunder; among which was a box of jewels consisting of a thousand carats of diamonds. He farther learned, that the fire in Southwark, in 1676, was brought about by the like means; and though in that they were at the expense of a thousand pounds, they made shift to get two thousand clear into their own pockets.
Mr. Echard was told by an eminent prelate, that Dr. Grant, a Papist, was strongly suspected, who having a share in the waterworks, contrived, as is believed, to stop up the pipes the night before the fire broke out, so that it was many hours before any water could be got after the usual manner.
Dr. Lloyd, afterward bishop of Worcester, told Dr. Burnet, that one Grant, a Papist, had sometime before applied himself to Lloyd, who had great interest with the Countess of Clarendon, (who had a large estate in the new river, which is brought from Ware to London) and said he could raise that estate considerably if she would make him a trustee for her. His schemes were probable, and he was made one of the board that governed that matter; and by that he had a right to come as often as he pleased to view their works at Islington. He went thither the Saturday before the fire broke out, and called for the key of the place where the heads of the pipes were, and turned all the cocks, which were then open, and stopped the water, and went away, and carried the keys with him. When the fire broke out next morning, they opened the pipes in the streets to find water, but there was none. Some hours were lost in sending to Islington, where the doors were to be broke open, and the cocks turned; and it was long before the water got from Islington. Grant denied that he turned the cocks; but the officer of the works affirmed that he had, according to order, set them all a-running, and that no person had got the keys from him but Grant; who confessed he had carried away the keys, but did it without design.
When we consider, several depositions were made after the fire, of its breaking out in several different places at the same time, and that one man confessed his setting fire to the houses where it began, when he was executed for it: when we remember Bishop Lloyd's testimony concerning Grant, we cannot easily be convinced that it was entirely accidental.
Bishop Kennet gives the following account: There was but one man tried at the Old Bailey for being the incendiary, who was convicted by his own confession, and executed for it. His name was Roger Hubert, a French Huguenot of Rohan, in Normandy. Some people shammed away this confession, and said he was non compos mentis; and had a mind, it seems, to assume the glory of being hanged for the greatest villain. Others say he was sober and penitent; and being, after conviction, carried through the ruins to shew where he put fire, he himself directed through the ashes and rubbish, and pointed at the spot where the first burning house stood.
The fire was generally charged on the Papists; one Hubert, a a Frenchman, who was seized in Essex as he was flying to France, confessed he had begun the conflagration. He was blindfolded, and purposely conducted to wrong places, where he told them it was not the spot where he began the flames; but when he was brought to the right, he confessed that was the place where he threw the fire-ball into the baker's house, the place where the fatal fire began, which he persisted in to the last moments of his execution. He was hanged upon no other evidence: though his broken account made some believe him melancholy mad.
But Oates several years afterwards informed the world the execrable deed was performed by a knot of eighty jesuits, friars, and priests, of several nations.
After all examinations there was but one man tried for being the incendiary, who confessing the fact, was executed for it: this was Robert Hubert, a French Hugenot, of Rohan, in Normandy, a person falsely said to be a Papist, but really a sort of lunatic, who by mere accident was brought into England just before the breaking out of the fire, but not landed till two days after, as appeared by the evidence of Laurence Peterson, the master of the ship who had him on board.
It was soon after complained of, that Hubert was not sufficiently examined who set him to work, and who joined with him. And Mr. Hawles, in his remarks upon Fitzharris's trial is bold to say, that the Commons resolving to examine Hubert upon that matter next day, Hubert was hanged before the house sat, so could tell no farther tales.
Lord Russell and Sir Henry Capel observed to the House of Commons (1680) that those that were taken in carrying on that wicked act, were generally discharged without trial.
In 1679, the House of Commons were suddenly alarmed with an information of a fresh design of the Papists to burn London a second time. The house of one Bird, in Fetter-lane, being set on fire, his servant Elizabeth Oxly, was suspected of firing it wilfully, and sent to prison. She confessed the fact, and declared she had been employed to do it by one Stubbs, a Papist, who had promised her five pounds. Stubbs being taken up, confessed he persuaded her to do it, and that Father Giffard, his confessor, put him upon it; telling him it was no sin to burn all the houses of heretics. He added he had frequent conferences on this affair with Giffard and two Irishmen. Stubbs and the maid declared, the Papists were to make an insurrection, and expected an army of sixty thousand men from France. It was generally inferred from this incident, that it was not Giffard's fault (nor that of his party), that the city of London was not burnt, as in the year 1666; and confirmed those in their opinion who thought that general conflagration was the contrivance and work of the Papists.
The hand of man was made use of in the beginning and carrying on of this fire. The beginning of the fire at such a time when there had been so much hot weather which had dried the houses, and made them the more fit for fuel; the beginning of it in such a place, where there were so many timber houses, and the shops filled with so much combustible matter; and the beginning of it just when the wind did blow so fiercely upon that corner toward the rest of the city, which then was like tinder to the sparks; this doth smell of a popish design, hatched in the same nest with the gunpowder plot. The world sufficiently knows how correspondent this is to popish principles and practices; they might, without any scruple of their kinds of conscience, burn an heretical city, as they count it, into ashes: for beside the dispensations they can have from his holiness (rather his wickedness) it is not unlikely but they count such an action as this meritorious.
Lord Chancellor (Earl of Nottingham) in his speech in giving judgment against Lord Viscount Stafford, said, "Who can doubt any longer that London was burnt by Papists?" though there was not one word in the whole trial relating to it.
The inscription on the plinth of the lower pedestal of the Monument has given an opportunity to the Reverend Mr. Crookshanks to say, it appears that the Papists were the authors of the fire, and that the Parliament being of the same persuasion, addressed the king.
"This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful burning of this protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the popish faction, in the beginning of September, in the year of our Lord 1666. In order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the protestant religion and old English liberty, and introducing popery and slavery."
This inscription was erased by King James upon his succession to the crown; but reinscribed presently after the revolution, in such deep characters as are not easily to be blotted out.
The latter part of the inscription on the north side (Sed furor papisticus, qui tam dira patravit, nondum restinguitur) containing an offensive truth, was erased at King James's accession, and reinscribed soon after the revolution.
Mr. Pope differs much in his opinion concerning these inscriptions, when he says—
Where London's column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, rears its head, and lies.
It seems wonderful (says the author of the Craftsman) that the plague was not as peremptorily imputed to the Papists as the fire.
There was a general suspicion of incendiaries laying combustible stuff in many places, having observed several houses to be on fire at the same time: but we are told, God with his great bellows did blow upon it, and made it spread quickly, and horrible flakes of fire mounted to the skies.
There was a strange concurrence of several natural causes which occasioned the fire so vigorously to spread and increase.
There was a great supineness and negligence in the people of the house where it began: it began between one and two o'clock after midnight, when all were in a dead sleep: on a Saturday night, when many of the eminent citizens, merchants, and others, were retired into the country, and left servants to look to their city houses: it happened in the long vacation, at a time of year when many wealthy citizens are wont to be in the country at fairs, or getting in debts, and making up accounts with their chapmen.
The houses where it began were mostly built of timber, and those very old: the closeness and narrowness of the streets did much facilitate the progress of the fire, and prevented the bringing in engines. The wares and commodities stowed and vended in those parts were most combustible of any other, as oil, pitch, tar, cordage, hemp, flax, rosin, wax, butter, cheese, wine, brandy, sugar, and such like.
The warmth of the preceding season had so dried the timber, that it was never more apt to take fire; and an easterly wind (which is the driest of all) had blown for several days together before, and at that time very strongly.
The unexpected failing of the water from the New River; the engine at London-bridge called the Thames water-tower was out of order, and in a few hours was itself burnt down, so that the pipes which conveyed the water from thence through the streets, were soon empty.
Beside, there was an unusual negligence at first, and a confidence of easily quenching it, and of its stopping at several places afterward; which at last turned into confusion, consternation, and despair; people choosing rather by flight to save their goods, than by a vigorous opposition to save their own houses and the whole city.
Thus a small spark, from an unknown cause, for want of timely care, increased to such a flame, that nothing could extinguish, which laid waste the greatest part of the city in three days' time.
The king in his speech to the parliament, says, "God be thanked for our meeting together in this place: little time hath passed since we were almost in despair of having this place left to meet in. You see the dismal ruins the fire hath made: and nothing but a miracle of God's mercy could have preserved what is left from the same destruction."
When the presumptions of the city's being burnt by design came to be laid before a committee of the House of Commons, they were found of no weight: and the many stories, published at that time with great assurance, were declared void of credibility.
After all, it may perhaps be queried, whether the foregoing rumours and examinations, though incongruous with each other, may not afford some colour to a whisper, that the government itself was not without some ground of suspicion of having been the secret cause of the conflagration; to afford an opportunity of restoring the capital of the nation, in a manner more secure from future contagion, more generally wholesome for the inhabitants, more safe from fires, and more beautiful on the whole, from the united effect of all these salutary purposes. Such, however, has been the result of that temporary disaster, whether accidental or not; and if intended, a more pardonable instance of doing evil that good may come of it, cannot perhaps be produced.
The Act of Parliament 19 and 20 Car. II., enacts, that—The better to preserve the memory of this dreadful visitation, a column or pillar of brass or stone be erected on, or as near unto the place where the fire unhappily began, as conveniently may be; in perpetual remembrance thereof: with such inscription thereon as the lord mayor and court of aldermen shall direct.
In obedience to which act, the fine piece of architecture, called The Monument, was erected, at the expense of fourteen thousand five hundred pounds; it is the design of the great Sir Christopher Wren, and undoubtedly the finest modern column in the world, and in some respects may vie with the most famous of antiquity, being twenty-four feet higher than Trajan's pillar at Rome. It is of the Doric order, fluted; its altitude, two hundred and two feet from the ground; greatest diameter of the body fifteen feet; the ground bounded by the plinth or lower part of the pedestal, twenty-eight feet square; and the pedestal is in altitude forty feet; all of Portland stone. Within, is a large staircase of black marble, containing three hundred and forty-five steps, ten inches and a half broad, and six inches risers; a balcony within thirty-two feet from the top, whereon is a spacious and curious gilded flame, very suitable to the intent of the whole column.
On the front or west side of the die of the pedestal of this magnificent column is finely carved a curious emblem of this tragical scene, by the masterly hand of Mr. Gabriel Cibber. The eleven principal figures are in alto, the rest in basso relievo.
At the north end of the plain the city is represented in flames, and the inhabitants in consternation, their arms extended upward, crying for succour. A little nearer the horizon, the arms, cap of maintenance, and other ensigns of the city's grandeur, partly buried under the ruins. On the ruins, lies the figure of a woman crowned with a castle, her breasts pregnant, and in her hand a sword; representing the strong, plentiful, and well-governed city of London in distress. The king is represented on a place ascended to by three steps, providing by his power and prudence for the comfort of his citizens and ornament of his city. On the steps stand three women: 1. Liberty, having in her right hand a hat, wherein the word Liberty, denoting the freedom or liberty given those who engaged three years in the work. 2. Ichnographia, with rule and compasses in one hand, and a scroll in the other; near her, the emblem of Industry, a beehive. 3. Imagination, holding the emblem of Invention. All which intimate, that the speedy re-erection of the city was principally owing to liberty, imagination, contrivance, art, and industry. There is the figure of time raising the woman in distress, and Providence with a winged hand containing an eye, promising peace and plenty, by pointing to those two figures in the clouds. Behind the king, the work is going forward. Under the king's feet appears Envy enraged at the prospect of success, and blowing flames out of his mouth. The figure of a lion, with one fore-foot tied up, and the muzzle of a cannon, denote this deplorable misfortune to have happened in time of war; and Mars, with a chaplet in his hand, is an emblem of approaching peace. Round the cornice are noble enrichments of trophy work, sword, the king's arms, cap of maintenance, &c., at the angles, four very large dragons, the supporters of the city arms.
On this column of perpetual remembrance the lord mayor and court of aldermen have ordered inscriptions to be cut in Latin:
That on the north side, describes the desolation of the city in ashes; and is thus translated:
In the year of Christ 1666, the second day of September, eastward from hence at the distance of two hundred and two feet, (the height of this column) about midnight, a most terrible fire broke out, which, driven by a high wind, not only wasted the adjacent parts, but also places very remote, with incredible noise and fury: it consumed eighty-nine churches, the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, a vast number of stately edifices, thirteen thousand two hundred dwelling houses, four hundred streets; of twenty-six wards, it entirely consumed fifteen, and left eight others shattered and half burnt; the ruins of the city were four hundred and thirty-six acres, from the Tower by the Thames side to the Temple church, and from the north-east gate of the city wall to Holborn-bridge: to the estates and fortunes of the citizens it was merciless, but to their lives very favourable; that it might in all things resemble the last conflagration of the world.
The destruction was sudden, for in a small space of time, the the same city, was seen most flourishing, and reduced to nothing.
Three days after, when this fatal fire had baffled all human councils and endeavours, in the opinions of all, as it were by the will of heaven, it stopped, and on every side was extinguished.
The south side describes the glorious restoration of the city, and has been thus translated:—
Charles the Second, son of Charles the Martyr, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, a most gracious prince, commiserating the deplorable state of things, while the ruins were yet smoking, provided for the comfort of his citizens, and the ornament of his city; remitted their taxes, and referred the petitions of the magistrates and inhabitants to the parliament, who immediately passed an act, that public buildings should be restored to greater beauty with public money, to be raised by an imposition on coals; that churches, and the cathedral of St. Paul's, should be rebuilt from their foundations with all magnificence; that bridges, gates, and prisons should be made new; the sewers cleansed; the streets made straight and regular; such as were steep, levelled, and those too narrow, made wider; markets and shambles removed to separate places. They also enacted, that every house should be built with party walls, and all in front raised of equal height, and those walls all of square stone or brick; and that no man should delay beyond the space of seven years. Moreover, care was taken by law to prevent all suits about their bounds. Also, anniversary prayers were enjoined; and to perpetuate the memory hereof to posterity, they caused this column to be erected. The work was carried on with diligence, and London is restored; but whether with greater speed or beauty may be made a question. Three years' time saw that finished which was supposed to be the business of an age.
The east side, over the door, has an inscription, thus Englished:
This pillar was begun, Sir Richard Ford, knight, being lord mayor of London, in the year 1671: carried on in the mayoralties of Sir George Waterman, knight; Sir Robert Hanson, knight; Sir William Hooker, knight; Sir Robert Viner, knight; Sir Joseph Sheldon, knight; and finished, Sir Thomas Davis, knight, being lord mayor, in the year 1677.
The inscription on the plinth of the lower pedestal is in page 245.
On a stone in front of the house built on the spot where the fire began, there was (very lately) the following inscription:
"Here, by the permission of Heaven, hell broke loose on this protestant city, from the malicious hearts of barbarous Papists, by the hand of their agent, Hubert, who confessed, and on the ruins of this place declared his fact, for which he was hanged, viz.:—That he here began the dreadful fire, which is described and perpetuated on and by the neighbouring pillar. Erected 1680, in the mayorality of Sir Patience Ward, knight."
 Rev. xiv. 18.
 Seymour's Survey, i. 70.
 Carte Ormd. i. 329.
 Of this clumsy piece of sculpture we have the following account from Maitland's Survey, page 1,049:—"It is impossible to quit this place without taking notice of the equestrian statue raised here in honour of Charles II.; a thing in itself so exceedingly ridiculous and absurd, that it is in no one's power to look upon it without reflecting on the tastes of those who set it up. But when we enquire into the history of it, the farce improves upon our hands, and what was before contemptible, grows entertaining. This statue was originally made for John Sobieski, King of Poland, but, by some accident was left upon the workman's hands. About the same time the city was loyal enough to pay their devoirs to King Charles immediately upon his restoration; and finding this statue ready made to their hands, resolved to do it in the cheapest way, and convert the Polander into a Briton, and the Turk underneath into Oliver Cromwell, to make their compliment complete: and the turban upon the last mentioned figure is an undeniable proof of the truth of the story."
 The certificate says, eighty-nine parish Churches; but see the Act of Parliament and inscription on the monument.
 London's Remembrancer, page 33,—ten years before the fire.
 Oldmison, i. 547.
 Rapin, ii. 690.
 Robert, according to Rapin.
 Bishop Burnet and some others say he was a Papist.
 Burnet, Abr., 120.
 Howell, Impartial History of James II., i. 9.
 Echard, i. 169.
 Old. Hist. of the Church of Scotland, i. 207. [Transcriber's Note: The marker for this footnote is missing in the original; its location has been guessed.]
 Seymour, i. 454. [Transcriber's Note: The marker for this footnote is missing in the original; its location has been guessed.]
 Echard, iii. 168. [Transcriber's Note: The marker for this footnote is missing in the original; its location has been guessed.]
 Burnet, Abr. 121. [Transcriber's Note: The marker for this footnote is missing in the original; its location has been guessed.]
 It was a very miraculous circumstance, amidst all this destruction and public confusion, no person was known either to be burnt, or trodden to death in the streets.
 By statute 19 and 20, Car. II., it is enacted, That the citizens of London, and their successors for the time to come, may retain the memory of so sad a desolation, and reflect seriously on the manifold iniquities, which are the unhappy causes of such judgments: be it therefore enacted, that the second day of September (unless the same happen to be Sunday, and if so, then the next day following) be yearly for ever hereafter observed as a day of fasting and humiliation within the said city and liberties thereof, to implore the mercy of Almighty God upon the said city; to make devout prayers and supplications unto him, to divert the like calamity for the time to come.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN HISTORICAL NARRATIVE OF THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE FIRE OF LONDON, SEPT. 2ND 1666***
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