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Fires have brought enormous changes to London. In AD 61 Boudicca and her tribesmen destroyed the Roman city of Londinium by burning, evidenced by a layer of burnt material in the ground.

This began in a bakers in Pudding Lane on the night of Sunday 2nd September. Fanned by a strong easterly wind the flames quickly spread. The king ordered houses to be pulled down to create a firebreak but the fire continued and by 4th September half of the city had been consumed. By the next day the worst was over but 400 acres within the city walls had been burned. Plans by Wren and Evelyn for rebuilding the city were rejected. A coal tax was imposed to pay for public buildings and regulations governed the construction of private houses. The 1667 map by Leake & Hollar shows the extent of the damage. This is available on the collage
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There is an audio-visual presentation of the Great Fire at the Museum of London using extracts from Pepys's diary.
You can climb the monument which commemorates the fire (via 311 steps!) for which you receive a certificate (admission charge). It is a Doric column of Portland Stone designed by Wren and Hooke in 1671-7 and stands 202' high, the distance from the start of the fire.

Little help was available for fighting fires although some parishes kept some basic equipment. There are examples of 'engines' (carts) in the Museum of London and at Bourne Hall Museum in Ewell. The little building in which the Ewell engine was housed still stands as does an engine house at St Mary's Churchyard in Rotherhithe.

Note: the photo shows the Rotherhithe Watch House but the engine house is a matching building

After the Great Fire many householders paid fire insurance. The company's metal badge was fixed onto the house and firemen employed by each company would attempt to save the building (no regard was paid to people!). Gradually these fire-fighters began to co-operate and in 1833 they formed the London Fire Engine Establishment with James Braidwood as Superintendant. Braidwood was killed in the great Tooley Street fire of 1861 when a wall collapsed. There is a memorial plaque near the spot. Braidwood was succeeded by Captain Eyre Massey Shaw who became Commander of the new Metropolitan Fire Brigade in 1865. He was to resign after the LCC took control in 1889. In 1904 it became known as the London Fire Brigade and now has its HQ at Lambeth. The buildings it previously occupied in Southwark Bridge Road house a museum. This is open for guided tours which must be booked. Telephone 020 7587 2894 or see their website for details. A collection of photos is available

The heavy bombing of London began on 7 September 1940 after which London was attacked nightly with 18800 tons of explosives being dropped up until May 1941. One of the worst nights for the City was 30 December 1940 with buildings unoccupied after Christmas. Firemen were hampered by broken water mains and low river levels. In 3 hours 10000 incendries and high explosive bombs were dropped by more than 100 enemy planes. The 1950s OS map depicts a devasted city with 121 acres of property severely damaged and 104 acres completely destroyed.

'Blitz' the firemen's statue/memorial stands opposite St Pauls Cathedral. A memorial parade and service is held. The LMA holds copies of the 'Bomb Maps' of London [more info]. 2007

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