London was a busy city in 1666. It was very crowded. The streets were narrow and dusty. The houses were made of wood and very close together. Inside their homes, people used candles for light and cooked on open fires. A fire could easily get out of control. In those days there were no fire engines or firemen to stop a fire from spreading.
The fire began on early Sunday morning on the 2nd of September. It started in Pudding Lane in the shop of the king's baker, Thomas Farrinor. When Thomas went to bed, he did not put out the fire that heated his oven. Sparks from the oven fell onto some dry flour sacks and they caught fire. The flames spread through the house, down Pudding Lane and into the nearby streets.
Soon London was filled with smoke. The sky was red with huge flames from the fire. By Monday, 300 houses had burned down.
Everybody was in a panic. People loaded their things onto carts and tried to leave town. Others tried to get away on boats on the river. Some people buried their things in the garden, hoping to save them from the fire.
The fire still spread, helped by a strong wind from the east. London Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral were both burnt. On Tuesday, King Charles II ordered that houses and shops be pulled down to stop the fire from spreading. By Wednesday, they had the fire under control. But by then, 100,000 people were homeless.
- Can you find the name of the king's baker?
- How many fireplaces and ovens did he have?
- How much tax did the baker have to pay? (Clue: number of hearths and ovens x 1 shilling)
- How many different jobs can you find on the list? Name them.
- How many men had houses on the list?
- How many women had houses on the list?
- How many houses were empty?
1. This source was written about two weeks before the fire. It lists some of the people who lived in Pudding Lane. This is where the fire began.
- Who did Charles ask to make a plan of London?
- Why did Charles want a map showing London after the fire?
- What did Charles feel about the fire?
2. After the fire, King Charles II wanted a new map of London.
- Can you find the following places on the map?
- River Thames
- Tower of London
- St Paul's Cathedral (Clue: from above it looks like a cross, not a dome)
- Pudding Lane (Clue: north of the river, near the bridge)
- Why are there not many buildings shown in the white middle part of the map?
- Ask your teacher for a map of London today. Try and spot the differences with Hollar's map of London.
3. Wenceslaus Hollar drew this map.
- There are a lot of halls. These were meeting places for different kinds of craftsmen. For example, number 130 is the Carpenter's Hall. Can you find any more? In pairs, talk about what people had to do in these jobs. (Your teacher will help you with the unusual ones.)
- Try and find some new jobs listed here in the key that were not listed in source 1 (for example: 124. weavers).
- How many houses in the city were destroyed by the fire?
- How many churches were burnt?
4. On the corner of his map, Hollar put some information. It is a list of places that are numbered on the map. This is called a key.
- How did Charles plan to stop fires spreading in London? (Clue: There are five different ideas in this source.) How would each of these plans help to stop a fire from spreading?