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The Great Fire of London
and the Fire-Fighting Earl of Craven

Lord Craven fights the Great Fire of London -  Nash Ford Publishing
  • In 1666, the year after the Great Plague, a huge fire broke out in the City of London. There was still some plague about and the fire got rid of it.
  • It started late at night on Saturday 1st September, in the baker's shop of Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane. He hadn't put out the fire in his oven properly.
  • There was no fire brigade in those days. The buildings were made of wood and very close together. So the fire spread quickly across the City.
  • Buckets of water, hand-squirts (a bit like water pistols) and fire hooks (to pull burning thatch off roofs) weren't much use.
  • The best way to fight the fire was to pull down buildings. This made firebreaks (gaps) over which the fire could not spread.
  • The Lord Mayor, Thomas Bloodworth, was in charge of fire-fighting. He did not want to pull down buildings because the law said he would then have to pay for rebuilding them.
  • But, late on Sunday, he was forced to ask King Charles II for help. The King sent the Earl of Craven to organise things. He was a fire expert:
    • The Earl's hobby was fighting fires.
    • He would pay big rewards to the first person to tell him about an outbreak of fire in London.
    • He would jump on his white horse, which he kept ready, and ride out to do what he could to help.
    • Some people said, "His horse smelt a fire as soon as it happened."
  • With a group of sailors, he began to pull down buildings. Later, Samuel Pepys, suggested they use gunpowder to blow them up. He wrote about it in his famous diary.
  • Eventually, the wind died away on Wednesday 5th September. The firebreaks started to work properly and the fire stopped.
  • It had destroyed over 13,000 houses and 87 churches including St. Paul's Cathedral. About 100,000 people were made homeless, but only 6 people were killed.
  • People had fled the City on foot and by boat on the River Thames to the fields around London. Some people made it as far as Windsor. Pepys wrote that the wind also brought many burnt papers to Windsor.
  • Sir William Backhouse from Swallowfield Park went up to London with his friend, John Evelyn the Diarist, to take a look at the ruins.
  • At the manor court at Ladye Place in Hurley, a small boy from London said his father had started the fire. He had thrown fire-bombs into the baker's shop. He was probably lying, but why?
  • London was later rebuilt in stone by Windsor-man, Sir Christopher Wren.
  • Spot the Difference Sheet available.

 

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