On this day in 1666, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:
“[T]hrough the City … , observing the ruins … . So … to the [rebuilt] Upper ‘Change, which is almost as good as the old one; only shops are but on one side”.
Remarkably, a matter of mere weeks after the devastating Great Fire of September 2nd-6th, the City was already getting back on its feet and beginning to function as normal again. It would be over thirty years, though, before the rebuilding process was completed, with Christopher Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral only finally topping out on October 26th, 1708, and not officially opening until Christmas Day, December 25th, 1711. Wren’s grandiose plans for the redesigning of the layout of London after the Great Fire (see December 21st posting) were eventually abandoned on the grounds of practicality and expediency in favour of one involving much less legal wrangling and groundwork, and much more like the old one. The new City was to differ from the old one, though, in several important respects. The old narrow streets were to be replaced with new wide ones, designed to simultaneously hinder the spread of fire and unencumber the flow of traffic. The old houses were to be replaced by new ones of four categories of standard build, of fire-proof stone and brick rather than timber; and the old breeding-grounds for disease were to be swept aside in the process, although incidentally rather than by design. And, as another incidental, the old organic economy was to be replaced by a modern mineral economy, considerably ahead of its time, fuelled by coal rather than wood. The cost of the entire enterprise, incidentally, was covered by an emergency tax on coal imposed by Act of Parliament.
The rebuilding of London after the Great Fire is discussed on various of our walks, including the “Great Fire … ” and “Lost Wren Churches” themed specials.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of this web-site.
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