350 years ago this September, most of the Square Mile was destroyed from ground up by a conflagration that has ever since been called the Great Fire of London, and is well known on the roll call of major historical disasters.
This is hardly something to celebrate, but a milestone to remember. It prompts us to explore the life of seventeenth-century London but also to think about issues which are very relevant today – how cities cope with disaster and displacement, how they make themselves resilient, how they renew and rebuild. We can certainly extol the City we know today but the events of 1666 should make us reflect on these themes
Well that’s what the City of London was telling me and – living in the City of London- I decided to spend a day remembering this milestone.
Here are the visual records of an amazingly damp day in the City, remembering the disaster that befell it.
Fire spread like dominos from house to house
These houses were not made of steel and concrete, or of sturdy Portland Stone.
I want a fire- a fire of my own!
This magnificent model sits on the Thames at the western extremity of the City – Temple.
Tonight it was all set alight
The dominos ran across the balcony’s of the Lord Mayor’s residence.
And on they went
They ran out towards us
And crashed down into the crowd
Last night was wet but the City was framed by flames
The Cupola of St Paul’s suddenly lit up as if it were a test card.
As we returned to the dome across the river it changed hue
Even more vivid
Light shone upon the river
And the fat golden boy, symbol of the gluttony that people of the 17th century said was to blame for the fire, smiled on his perch at the north western extremity of the fire.