On this day in 1703 Samuel Pepys died. He is buried in the church of St Olave Hart Street, which to this day holds an annual service to honour his memory.
The following are selected extracts from the entries in his diary for the days of the Great Fire of London in 1666:
“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 … 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’”.
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 … .
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… ”.