A voice from the past

Pepys memorial , St Olave Hart Street

May 26th – On this day in 1703 Samuel Pepys died.  He is buried in the church of St Olave Hart Street (see also previous St Olave posting).

The following are selected extracts from the entries in his famous diary for the days of the Great Fire of London in 1666:

Pepys statue, Seething Lane Gardens (site currently under development)

Pepys statue, Seething Lane Gardens (site currently under development)

“September 2d .  … 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 presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places … ; and … did see … an infinite great fire … , … 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 pair of stairs, by the waterside, to another.   … Having staid, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way … ; I to White Hall, … and did tell the King … what I saw; and that, unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire”.

September 3d. (M)y Lady Batten sent me a cart to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things, .., which I did, riding … in my night-gown, in the cart … .

September 4th.  … (T)o the Tower Street, and there met the fire burning … .  And … Sir W. Pen and I did dig [a pit], and put our wine in it, and I my parmazan cheese … .

Barking steeple

Barking steeple

September 5th.  … About two in the morning my wife … tells me of new cryes of fire, it being come to Barking Church … .    I up; and finding it so, resolved …  to take her away, and did, and … my gold … ; but, Lord! what a sad sight it was by moone-light, to see the whole City almost on fire … .  Home, and whereas I expected to have seen our house on fire, … it was not.  … (G)oing to the fire, I find, by the blowing up of houses … by Sir W. Pen, there is a good stop given to it … ; it having only burned the dyall of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and … was there quenched.  I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation I ever saw… ”.

Pepys memorial , St Olave Hart Street

Pepys memorial , St Olave Hart Street

The aforementioned churches of All Hallows Barking (Barking church) and St Olave Hart Street, which are closely associated with Pepys, are visited, although not generally entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Lost City Highlights” and “Tudor and Stuart London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of our web-site.  Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Former entrance to South Gallery and Navy Office pew, St Olave Hart Street

Former entrance to South Gallery and Navy Office pew, St Olave Hart Street

Site of Navy Office in which Pepys lived and worked, Seething Lane Gardens (site currently under development)

Site of Navy Office in which Pepys lived and worked, Seething Lane Gardens (site currently under development)

3 thoughts on “A voice from the past

  1. rafterd1972

    Hard to imagine the intensity of the fire and the damage it did before it burned itself out.

    Reply

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