This year marks 350 years since the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the City of London and to mark the anniversary, we’re today launching a new special series looking at some of the lesser known – and, in some cases, more unusual – memorials and plaques commemorating the event.
Sure, everyone knows about The Monument near London Bridge erected to commemorate the event (see our earlier post on it here). But often overlooked is the plaque located in nearby Pudding Lane commemorating the site where the fire began in the early hours of 2nd September, 1666 – the bakery of Thomas Farriner (also variously spelt Faryner or Farynor).
The plaque, located close to the corner of Pudding Lane and Monument Street, was erected in 1986 by the Worshipful Company of Bakers to mark the anniversary of their Royal Charter being granted by King Henry VII some 500 years earlier. It reads (in part): “Near this site stood the shop belonging to Thomas Faryner, the King’s baker, in which the Great Fire of September 1666 began.”
While that fits with the long-held idea that the location of the bakery was 202 feet (61 metres) from the where the Monument stands, the same height of the memorial column itself, new research claims that the site of the bakery was not actually where Pudding Lane now stands but in nearby Monument Street instead.
Drawing on a planning document dating from 1679 and found within the London Metropolitan Archives, academic Dorian Gerhold reportedly cross-referenced the document with later maps and concluded that the baker’s oven was actually located on what is now Monument Street, 60 feet to the east of the intersection with Pudding Lane.
Farriner, meanwhile, was, as a king’s baker, a supplier to the Royal Navy. During the fire, the widower managed to escape the flames along with his three children (although their housemaid, unable or unwilling to escape out a window, perished). He was later able to rebuild the bakery and his home and when he died only a few years after the fire, left considerable sums to his children.
Incidentally, Farriner, his daughter Hanna and his son Thomas were all in the jury which convicted Frenchman Robert Hubert of starting the fire in their bakery by tossing a grenade in through the window (Hubert had confessed and, despite the fact that it’s believed few thought him actually guilty, he was convicted and hanged at Tyburn on 27th October, 1666, for the crime of arson.)
PICTURE: Steve James/Flickr/CC BY_NC-ND 2.0 (cropped and straightened)