So we’ve come to the end of our current Wednesday series – 10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – to mark the Great Fire’s 350th. So here’s the recap in case you missed any:
We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series next week!
To end our series on memorials in London commemorating the Great Fire of 1666 – marking the event’s 350th anniversary – we’re taking a look at what is one of the smallest monuments in the City (and, despite all rumour, possibly not a memorial to the Great Fire at all).
Midway up the wall of a building at the corner of Eastcheap and Philpot Lane, not far from The Monument (for more on its history, see our earlier post here), can be seen two brown mice fighting over a piece of cheese.
The mice are commonly said to be a memorial, not to anyone who died during the fire, but to two men who died while building The Monument itself.
The cheese apparently relates to the story in that the two men fell to the deaths while fighting after one accused the other of eating his cheese sandwich. The two mice, one for each of the men, relate to the fact that it was apparently mice who were later found to be the culprits.
But we need to point out that not all agree on the memorial aspect of the mice, which have apparently been decorating the building’s cornice since the mid-1800s – and there are legitimate questions: why, for example, would the Victorians when constructing the property commemorate two long dead workers and how had the story even reached them of their deaths?
One theory is that the mice do commemorate two men who died in the circumstances described, but while building the property they are located upon and not The Monument at all.
The building, meanwhile, is said to have been constructed as offices and warehouses for spice merchants Hunt & Crombie – it’s been suggested the mice were merely part of the decorations made for the building and not a memorial at all.
Whatever the origins of the mice – and whether they represent a memorial or not – we thought they were a nice way to close out the special series on Great Fire of London commemorative sites. We’ll kick off a new Wednesday series shortly.
10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 9. A memorial to a fire prevention breakthrough (erected on the Great Fire’s 110th)…
October 5, 2016
This rather unremarkable obelisk on Putney Heath actually commemorates the invention of ‘Fireproof House’ and was erected, not coincidentally, on the 110th anniversary of the great conflagration.
The rather eccentric David Hartley, an inventor and MP, came up with the idea of sheathing joists under floorboards with thin layers of what were initially iron and later iron and copper plating to prevent the spread of fire in homes and ships and was granted a patent for his system in 1773.
Known as ‘Hartley’s Fire Plates’, he claimed in a pamphlet that a single fireplate might have prevented the Great Fire – a claim which got other MPs excited and led them to grant him cash – £2,500 – to continue his experiments as well as an extension on his patent, from the usual 15 to 31 years.
His experiments included building homes for the express purpose of setting them alight to test his invention, one of which he built on Wimbledon Common. Known as the ‘Fireproof House’, the property was repeatedly set alight in front of prominent witnesses.
These included MPs, the Lord Mayor of London and Aldermen of the City of London – who granted Hartley the Freedom of the City and encouraged fire plates to be included in all new buildings in London – and, of course, King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte. One of the tests was apparently carried out while the royal family was eating breakfast in an upstairs room inside (they survived unscathed – one hates to think of Hartley’s fate should they not have).
The house is now gone but the Hartley Memorial Obelisk, erected just off Wildcroft Road in what were formerly the grounds of Wildcroft Manor, remains.
The red brick and stone Grade II-listed structure was erected by the City of London Corporation in 1776, the 110th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, to commemorate Hartley’s invention of fire plates. The first stone in the monument – which is attributed to George Dance – was laid by the then Lord Mayor, John Sawbridge.
PICTURE: David Antis/Geograph/CC BY-SA 2.0
September 28, 2016
As mentioned earlier, there are several memorials to the Great Fire of London at St Paul’s Cathedral – we’ve already mentioned one of them, the Resurgam, which can be found on the south side of the cathedral’s exterior.
Another can be found in a monument which actually commemorates the poet and priest, John Donne, a dean of St Paul’s who died in 1631 (incidentally, it’s not the only place he’s commemorated – there’s also a bronze bust of him outside the cathedral, placed there in 2012).
The marble effigy inside the cathedral, however, is significant because, erected within 18 months of his death, it is among the few monuments to survive the Great Fire of London. Located in the south quire aisle, the effigy, the work of Nicholas Stone, depicts Donne in his funeral shroud (he apparently posed for it while still alive, wrapped in a sheet).
The effigy was apparently saved by the fact that when the fire raged through the cathedral, it fell into the crypt. And, in a poignant reminder of the fire’s destructive power, if you look closely at the base you can still see scorch marks from the blaze.
It lay in the crypt among other remains of the Great Fire until the late 19th century when it was recovered and restored to its place in the cathedral above in a position close to where it had formerly stood in the Old Cathedral.
10 sites commemorating the Great Fire of London – 7. The ancient plaque commemorating St Olave Silver Street…
September 21, 2016
Many of the monuments commemorating the Great Fire of London, date from succeeding centuries (the Monument being a notable exception), one of the earliest can apparently commemorating the site of the Church of St Olave Silver Street.
The church dated from at least the 12th century and is one of a number in London which were apparently named after King Olaf, the first Christian King of Norway who fought alongside the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelred II against the Danes in England in the 11th century.
The church served as the parish church of the silversmiths and apparently in recognition of that boasted a figure of Christ on the cross which had silver shoes.
The church had been rebuilt in the early 1600s but was completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London and never rebuilt, the parish united with that of St Alban Wood Street.
The site of the church, now on the corner of London Wall and Noble Street, is now a garden and boasts an almost illegible plaque featuring a skull and crossbones, which is believed to date from the late 17th century, and which commemorates the destruction of the church in the Great Fire.
September 14, 2016
Walk around the streets of the City of London and it’s hard to miss the myriad of plaques commemorating many buildings lost in the Great Fire of London. On the Strand, however, can be found a plaque which commemorates a building that survived the fire.
Located at 230 Strand (opposite the Royal Courts of Justice), the narrow four storey building, complete with projecting second floor, dates from 1625 and was apparently originally built as the home of the gatekeeper of Temple Bar.
According to the sign upon it, the now Grade II* building was the only structure on the Strand to survive the fire of 1666.
Now a rather plain-looking building, it has been much altered over the years and for much of the 20th century housed the Wig and Pen Club for journalists and lawyers – running from at least 1908, it closed in 2003.
Along with the late 17th century building next door (the two are pictured above with number 230 on the right), it’s now part of a Thai restaurant.
PICTURE: Google Street View
The 75 foot (23.3 metre) tall Corinthian column of Portland stone, which was designed by Whitfield Architects and erected in 2003, is topped by a gold leaf covered flaming copper urn which is lit up at night.
While it has been said that the column is “purely decorative”, the developers of Paternoster Square claim on their website that it actually serves several purposes in this case including both commemorative and practical.
Not only is it part of the ventilation system for the carpark underneath, they say its design is apparently a recreation of columns designed by Inigo Jones for the west portico of Old St Paul’s Cathedral.
And then there’s the three metre high urn on top which, not unlike that found on The Monument, they say commemorates the fact the site of the square has twice been destroyed by fire – the first time in the Great Fire of 1666 and the second in the Blitz during World War II.
The area around Paternoster Square was once home to booksellers and publishers’ warehouses.
Old St Paul’s Cathedral was certainly the largest and most famous casualty of the Great Fire of London of 1666. And its passing – and rebirth – is recorded on several memorials, one of which can be found on the building itself.
Set on the pediment which, carved by Caius Gabriel Cibber, sits above south portico off Cannon Street, the memorial depicts a phoenix rising from clouds of smoke (ashes), a symbol of Sir Christopher Wren’s new cathedral which rose on the site of the old Cathedral in the wake of the fire. Below the phoenix is the Latin word, ‘Resurgam’, meaning “I Shall Rise Again”.
The story goes that Wren had this carved after, having called for a stone to mark the exact position over which St Paul’s mighty dome would rise, the architect was shown a fragment of one of the church’s tombstones which had been inscribed with the word.
The foundation stone for the new cathedral, largely built of Portland stone, was laid without any fanfare on 21st June, 1675, and it only took some 35 years before it was largely completed. Some of the stonework from the old cathedral was used in the construction of the new.
We should note that the old cathedral was in a state of some disrepair when the fire swept through it – the spire had collapsed in 1561 and despite the addition of a new portico by Inigo Jones, it was generally in poor condition.
Stonework from the Old St Paul’s – everything from a Viking grave marker to 16th century effigies – are now stored in the Triforium, rarely open to the public (tours of the Triforium are being run as part of the programme of events being held at the cathedral to mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire – see www.stpauls.co.uk/fire for more).
PICTURE: email@example.com/CC BY-NC 2.0 (image cropped)
Standing outside the Temple Church, in the west of the City of London (between Fleet Street and the River Thames), stands a pillar topped with a pair of Templar knights riding a horse in an obvious commemoration of the military order that once had its preceptory here.
But what many people don’t realise is that the column was also erected, apparently like the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, to commemorate another point where the all-consuming Great Fire of London was finally stopped.
The 10 metre high column was erected in 2000 (another of its purposes was to mark the millennium) in what was once the cloister courtyard of the headquarters of the Templars, which had originally founded to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land in 1119.
The bronze figures of the two men atop a single horse which caps the column was a representation of the image found on the order’s official. It represents the poverty of those who initially joined it – so poor they could only afford one horse for every two men, a situation which was to change dramatically in coming centuries as the order accumulated wealth, a situation which, eventually, in France, led to its downfall.
London Remembers reports that the column was designed in the gothic style, similar to the Purbeck marble columns in the church (which, incidentally, are said to be the oldest surviving free-standing examples of their kind) and deliberately made to contrast with the more florid column of Sir Christopher Wren’s Monument, which marks where the fire started and, also, according to a signboard, “the arrival of the new classical order”.
The column, designed by Ptolemy Dean, and the sculpture, designed by Nicola Hicks, were the gift of Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Treasurer of the Inner Temple in 1999. A Latin inscription around the base of the column reads: “Lest the Temple should be without a memorial of the start of the third millennium the Inner Temple caused this monument to be erected for the greater glory of God.”
We’ve mentioned this memorial before but it’s worth a revisit. While last week’s entry looked at a plaque marking the site of the start of the Great Fire of London in September, 1666, this week we’re taking a (second) look at one of the sites where it was stopped.
Positioned high on a building on the corner of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane in Smithfield, this small wooden gilt 17th century statue, by an unknown maker, was once located on front of the pub, The Fortune of War, which stood on the site until it was demolished in 1910 (it was apparently used by body-snatchers as a place to display stolen corpses for surgeons from the nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital to take their pick from).
The statue marks one of the locations on the city fringes where the fire was ‘stayed’ through the demolition of buildings. It bears an inscription which reads “This Boy is in Memmory put up for the late Fire of London Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony 1666”.
Well below it is an explanatory note below explains that the boy was made deliberately fat (the statue was apparently originally known as ‘The Fat Boy’ although to the modern eye it doesn’t look particularly so) in reference to the rather odd claim the fire was started in Pudding Lane as a result of the sin of gluttony and not by Papists as had been originally claimed on The Monument.
It has been said that the statue – which is believed to have once had wings and which is the reason why the building it is upon carries a Grade II heritage listing – was merely a shop sign and originally had nothing to do with the Great Fire, which may well be the case, but that said it is known that the fire stopped here (sparing St Bart’s further up Giltspur Street).
PICTURE: David Adams
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)