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The Great Fire of London: Rebuilding of London Act of 1666

Abhay Burande May 6, 2019
The Great Fire of London lasted for nearly 3 days, in 1666. The Rebuilding Act was passed in 1666 to create a new face of the city. Read this post to know more.
The Great Fire of London lasted from Sunday, 2 September 1666 to Wednesday, 5 September 1666. The medieval City of London in the old Roman City Wall was affected by this. The fire was close to the aristocratic district of Westminster, Charles II's Palace of Whitehall and many suburban slums.
Approximately 87 parish churches, 13200 houses, St. Paul's Cathedral and many buildings of the City authorities were affected. About 80000 inhabitants were destroyed by this fire.

Great Fire of London 1666

The fire began at the bakery of Thomas Farriner in Pudding Lane just after midnight on Sunday, 2 September and spread very fast. The creation of firebreaks was the major firefighting technique at that time. Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Bloodworth delayed the use of this technique. On Sunday night, large-scale demolitions were to be put into effect.
By this time, the wind had raised the bakery fire into a firestorm. Due to this, the given measures were not effective. On Monday, the fire progressed towards the North, into the heart of the City. There were rumors that foreigners had set fires in the City. The suspicion was on the French and the Dutch.
These were England's enemies in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. These immigrant groups were subjected to street violence and mob attacks. On Tuesday, the fire destroyed St. Paul's Cathedral and nearly damaged Charles II's court at Whitehall.
The attempts to extinguish the fire were successful due to two reasons: the strong east winds subsided and the Tower of London garrison utilized gunpowder to have efficient firebreaks.
Many London houses were made of wood and pitch construction and could be easily lit. Due to this, the fire spread very fast. This fire spread across the hay and feed piles on the yard of the Star Inn at Fish Street Hill and then moved across the Inn.
The strong wind that existed that night caused sparks to travel in such a way that they ignited the Church of St. Margaret. It then spread to Thames Street. Here, the riverside warehouses and wharves contained oil, hay, coal, hemp, spirits, and timber that served to intensify the flames.
The citizen firefighting brigades were not that successful in controlling the fire using the water from the river. At about eight o'clock in the morning, the fire had engulfed half of the London Bridge. The fire in 1633 had created a gap that prevented the fire from reaching Southwark.
The standard process was to destroy the houses in the direction of the flames. Such firebreaks deprived the fire from any sort of fuel. However, Lord Mayor Bludworth pondered on the cost of rebuilding and was very hesitant for such a step.

The Rebuilding of London Act 1666

Christopher Wren designed an excellent plan that had grand boulevards and buildings. Those people who had land aimed to retain it or sell it at the correct price. The Rebuilding Act was executed by a special commission made by the King and enforced by an act of Parliament.
The main roads were widened and the size of the buildings were subject to officially determined dimensions. The thickness of wall, limits on stories and types of material were all planned. The King and London Corporation finalized three grand structures to exhibit to the world how London had bounced back.
The Royal Exchange and a new Customs House had crucial economic functions. The Monument had a 62-meter long Doric column with a sculpted flaming top.
Wren became reputed as the architect who created London as he included 51 churches and a new St. Paul's Cathedral. A Fire Court dealt with many cases to consider arguments concerning the fire and smoothed the reconstruction.