While brick and stone houses did exist, many houses were made of wood and leaned over into the narrow streets.
Most people lived in the same buildings as their businesses so homes often included shops, workshops, industrial premises and stores.
Did you know? There were 109 churches in the City of London before the fire.
The first church, St Margaret Fish Street Hill, caught fire overnight. 87 churches were to be destroyed by the fire.
Fishmongers’ Hall, next to London Bridge, became the first livery company hall to burn.
Cheapside, one of the City of London’s most important streets, began to burn.
Newgate prison was badly damaged. Ludgate debtors’ prison was surrounded by flames.
King Charles II said the City should be redesigned to prevent another fire - but he wanted regulations in place first.
The City authorities laid down several rules for rebuilding. New houses had to be faced with brick or stone.
The Rebuilding Act of February 1667 stated that:
And the better to preserve the memory of this dreadful visitation, be it further enacted That a column or pillar of brass or stone be erected on or as near unto the place where the said fire so unhappily began as conveniently may be, in perpetual remembrance thereof…
The result of this was The Monument, a huge stone column designed by Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren. It is 62 metres high and set in a position that means if it was laid horizontally, its tip would touch Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane – the very spot where the fire started. It was built between 1671 and 1677 and has 311 steps up to a viewing platform.
The Monument was also used for scientific experiments. Hooke and Wren put a room in the basement with a circular opening in the ceiling. Through this hole, you can see all the way up the centre of The Monument to a hatch that opens in the flame structure at the top. This turns The Monument into a ‘zenith telescope’ to measure the positions of stars. However, it was not able to give accurate enough readings due to the vibrations from traffic nearby.
Robert Hooke also carried out barometer experiments to measure atmospheric pressure at different heights inside the Monument. Hooke’s diary shows that the Royal Society used The Monument as a base for their experiments for several years.
In 1681 a plaque was put up on the house that was built on the site of the bakery where the fire started. It blamed Catholics and Robert Hubert for starting the Great Fire.
The plaque was taken down after the accession of the Catholic king, James II, but reinstated in 1689 after the Protestant William III and Mary II took the throne. It was finally removed in the mid-1700s because the crowds stopping to read it were causing traffic jams and annoying the occupants of the house.
Many people thought that the Great Fire was God’s punishment for the sins of Londoners and the whole country. As it started in Pudding Lane and was said to have stopped at Pie Corner, a legend grew that the fire was caused by the sin of gluttony (greed). A statue of a ‘fat boy’ was put up on the front of The Fortune of War tavern at Pie Corner in memory of this.
He originally had an inscription on his round belly saying ‘This boy is in memory put up for the late fire of London, occasioned by the sin of gluttony, 1666’. He is still there today, on the corner of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane, though the tavern was pulled down in 1910. The boy is now painted gold and his inscription is carved into the wall beneath him.