Great Fire of London anniversary

350th Anniversary of the Great Fire of London

Jenni RoseLatest News Leave a Comment

Today marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

On 2nd September 1666 a small fire started at Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane just after midnight. The small fire soon turned into a catastrophic blaze, destroying the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants. No one could have ever imagined a worse day for the City of London.

From Sunday 2nd to Wednesday 5th September, the now legendary fire raged and spread across almost the entire medieval City of London.

The final death toll remains unclear, but officials at the time claimed it to be much smaller that it actually was. The deaths of the poor and middle-class were not recorded and studies conducted on some of the pottery salvaged from Pudding Lane have shown that temperatures reached 1250°C during the fire, cremating many victims.

Fire-fighting techniques of the day

Unfortunately, the recognised firefighting technique of the time was to demolish the buildings surrounding the area where the fire had started. The wind spread the fire rapidly meaning when the order from the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, finally came to demolish the buildings around Pudding Lane it was too late.

London had developed ‘fire engines’ to fight flames. Unfortunately, these large pumps weren’t very functional; many of them didn’t have wheels and by the time they were dragged to the City, the heat was too great for the firefighters to reach the areas hit by the fire.

At the time, about 30,000 houses were provided with a system of elm pipes that supplied water from the River Thames. Further, Pudding Lane was close to the river, so it could have been possible to create a double chain of firefighters supplying buckets of water to the burning buildings. This did not happen however.

The final victory against flames is considered to have been won thanks to two factors: first of all, the strong winds stopped, and second, the Tower of London garrison used gunpowder to demolish buildings, creating firebreaks that finally stopped the spread of the fire.

Today’s fire sprinkler systems

Fire sprinkler systems could have really made a difference in this sad tragedy but, unfortunately for our old compatriots, they were not invented until 1812. Since then, extinguishing and preventing fires have become much easier and millions of lives, as well as properties, around the world are now preserved every day thanks to fire sprinkler systems.

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