London did not have a fire brigade in 1666. How do you think fires were put out?
There had been predictions of a great fire in London. Terrifyingly, they came true.
It had been a long, dry summer. Just before the fire, a storm started with high winds blowing from the east.
The fire started in Thomas Farriner’s bakery in Pudding Lane. How did this happen?
The Lord Mayor, Thomas Bludworth, went to look at the fire. He didn’t think it looked serious, so went back to bed.
Strong winds meant that the fire spread quickly, and the wooden buildings acted as tinder.
The Lord Mayor tried to stop the blaze by pulling down houses, but the fire moved too fast.
The government stepped in to help tackle the fire. They set up eight bases called fire posts.
The fire was successfully held back at St Dunstan-in-the-East, thanks to the efforts of a group of schoolboys.
The fire reached its peak on 4 September 1666, spreading from the Temple in the west to near the Tower of London in the east.
Gunpowder was used to blow up houses. It successfully stopped the fire around the Tower of London and Cripplegate.
The fire was successfully stopped at Fetter Lane Corner, Pie Corner, Holborn Bridge and Temple.
Most of the remaining fires were put out. Samuel Pepys was able to walk through the smouldering ruins.
New fires broke out on the edge of the fire area at Temple, Shoe Lane and Cripplegate.
London still suffered fires despite the changes that were made to the City’s streets and buildings after the Great Fire.
After the Great Fire, the City authorities published rules to prevent fires. The City was split into four sections. Each was to have 800 leather buckets, 50 ladders, 24 pickaxes and 40 shovels as firefighting equipment. Two brass squirts would be supplied to every parish and each of the 12 major livery companies (trade and craft associations) was to have a fire engine.
The many other rules included:
Firefighting technology slowly improved after the Great Fire. However, fire engines were still expensive and did not put out fires very quickly so the old methods of using squirts, buckets of water and pulling down houses were still heavily relied upon.
It wasn’t until the 1700s that fire engine technology improved and their use became more common.
In 1680, builder and businessman Nicholas Barbon set up the first fire insurance company and other companies followed. They provided firefighting services as part of the insurance cover.
However, after the Tooley Street fire of 1861 the insurance companies raised their premiums and threatened to stop firefighting. Finally, the government agreed to take over. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed in 1865 and led to a publicly-funded fire service – the first real London Fire Brigade, over 200 years after the Great Fire.