Albemarle Street in Mayfair is generally believed to be the first street in London made into a one-way street.

The decision to make the street one-way apparently stems from the popularity of a series of science-oriented lectures at The Royal Institution of Great Britain given in the early 19th century by Sir Humphry Davy, inventor of the miner’s lamp and the first lecturer appointed at the RI following its inception in 1799.

Such was the crush of carriages in Piccadilly to attend Davy’s lectures that in response, the powers that be at The Royal Institution gave instructions to coach drivers about the direction of travel in the street and paid for constables to enforce their ruling.

The concept of the one-way street, however, does apparently go back much further. The Spectator reports that in 1617, Pudding Lane – the site of the start of the famous Great Fire of London in 1666, was among numerous laneways around Thames Street which were designated as one-way only for carts to ease congestion.

Above: The Royal Institution as it is today, where Friday night lectures caused the introduction of one-way traffic in the street. PICTURE: Gryffindor /CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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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.

Thomas-Farriner-plaqueSure, 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)

It’s widely known that Pudding Lane was the place where the Great Fire of London is believed to have started in 1666 – hard to miss given the site is commemorated nearby in the form of The Monument, the world’s tallest freestanding stone column – but what about where it was stopped? Standing in a niche on the corner of a building overlooking the junction of Giltspur Street and Cock Lane is a small gilt statue known as the ‘Golden Boy of Pye Corner’.

It’s not known how old the statue is but it is known that it was previously located on the front of a pub, The Fortune of War, which stood on the site until it was demolished in 1910 (and was apparently used by body-snatchers as a place to display stolen corpses for surgeons to peruse).

The statue – which apparently marks the place where the fire was ‘stayed’ (that is, buildings were destroyed to stop the fire spreading any further) –  is accompanied by 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”.

Below it an explanatory note below explains that the boy was made deliberately fat in reference to the fact the fire was started in Pudding Lane as a result of gluttony and not by Papists as was claimed on The Monument (this reference – “But Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched” – was added to the inscriptions on the Monument in 1681 but was removed in 1831).