On this fateful day in 1666, Samuel Pepys 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 [Charles II] … 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”.