September 2nd – On this fateful day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary*:
“ … Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire … in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown, and went to her window; and thought it to be … far enough off, and so went to bed again … . … By and by Jane comes and tells me that … the fire … is now burning all down Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready … and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places … ; and … did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side of the end of the bridge … . So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant … , who tells me that it begun … In the King’s bakers in Pudding-lane, and hath burned St Magnus’s church and most … of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and … there saw a lamentable fire. … Every body endeavouring to remove their goods, and … bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one … stairs, by the waterside, to another. … Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and … the wind mighty high and driving it into the City, and everything, after so long a drought, proving combustible … : I to White Hall, … and did tell the King … what I saw; and that, unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down [to create fire-breaks], nothing could stop the fire. The King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor [the singularly ineffectual Thomas Bloodworth]” and command him to … pull down [houses]. At last met my Lord Mayor … . To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman ‘Lord, what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it’”.
And John Evelyn** wrote:
“This fatal night … began that deplorable fire, neere Fish-streete … : … I … with my Wife & Sonn … went to the bank side in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole Citty in dreadfull flames … and … consumed … from the bridge … down to the three Cranes, & so returned exceedingly astonishd, what would become of the rest”.
Further information about the outbreak of the fire on 2nd September 1666, including the relevant extract from my book, can be found in my previous blogpost from 2013 here
“The Great Fire of London and its aftermath” is also the theme of one of our most popular special walks.
Further details of this and all our other walks can be found in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.
* see also Pepys’ Diary posting