September 7th – On this day in 1666, in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:
“Up by five o’clock; and, blessed be God! find all well; and by water to [Paul’s] Wharfe. Walked thence, and saw all the towne burned, and a miserable sight of Paul’s church, with all the roofs fallen, and the body of the quire fallen into St Fayth’s; Paul’s school also, Ludgate, and Fleet Street. My father’s house, and the church, and a good part of the Temple the like.”
And went on to write, equally if not more fretfully:
“I home late to Sir W. Pen’s, who did give me a bed … ; … but still both sleeping and waking had a fear of fire in my heart, that I took little rest. People do all the world over cry out of the simplicity of my Lord Mayor in … this business of the fire, laying it all upon him. A proclamation is come out for markets to be kept at Leadenhall and … several other places about the town; and Tower Hill, and all churches to be set open to receive poor people”.
The area around St Paul’s described by Pepys in the first of these two extracts is visited on our Wednesday morning walk “Historic Smithfield, Clerkenwell and Holborn – Fanfare and Plainsong”, Wednesday afternoon walk “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” and Friday afternoon walk “Tower to Temple – The Heart of the City”.
Please note that these walks, or indeed any of our others, can also be booked at any other time, subject to prior agreement (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org phone 020-8998-3051).
Note. The church of St Faith, also known as St Faith under St Paul’s, was burnt down in the Great Fire of 1666 and not rebuilt afterwards. The only surviving evidence of its former existence, at least at its former site, is in the form of a parish boundary marker on New Change, and a pump “erected by St Faith’s parish” in 1819 in St Paul’s Alley (which alley, incidentally, was widened so as to be almost as wide as it is long following legislation passed in 1667 that required passage-ways to be at least 9’ wide “for the common benefit of accommodation”).