Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Pepys’

….could there have been a more terrifying way to waken, on what was perhaps a chilly autumn morning, that day, September 2nd, 1666 than to the words of Fire! Fire!! London’s Burning



– except perhaps to the news that the French were invading…..or was it the Roman Catholics….


The French


or perhaps Roman Catholics

“The ignorant and deluded mob, who upon the occasion were hurried away with a kind of frenzy, vented forth their rage against the Roman Catholics and Frenchmen, imagining these incendiaries (as they thought) has thrown red hot balls into the houses.” William Taswell.

…..they weren’t; it was just a rumour!

In the early hours of September 2nd, on Pudding Lane, at the premises of the Baker to the King; Thomas Farriner, an untended coal flared up…perhaps teased by a whisper of a breeze, just enough to kindle the embers of the bakers oven.


Pudding Lane

Within a few hours the fire had built and all too soon, while Londoner’s and foreigner’s slumbered still, the flames jumped and ran….

From the Diary of Samuel Pepys – Sunday 2nd September 1666

About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. By and by our Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge. So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another.

A trivial beginning that soon turned into a raging inferno, the city was soon ablaze and word went out that London was burning. The Mayor of London, one (fairly dimwitted) Thomas Bloodworth was unperturbed and reckoned ‘a woman could piss it out’….his words came back to bite (burn) him in the bum and by the time the hapless creature realised the extent of the inferno, it was too late to save the city!

Samuel Pepys climbed the steeple of Barking Church (All Hallows by the Tower) to view the fire.

“There was the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw. Everywhere great fires. Oyle-cellars and brimstone and other things burning. I became afeared to stay there long, and therefore down again as fast I could.” Samuel Pepys.

Alerted by Samuel Pepys as to the extent of the disaster unfolding, by 3pm on that fateful day, King Charles II, accompanied by his brother, James, Duke of York, sailed down the Thames to observe the fire, and immediately gave orders to “pull down buildings to create a fire break.”imag9178

From that luckless Sunday till the following Thursday the flames leapt and bound from dark narrow lanes to streets and courts,

“The streets full of nothing but people and horses and carts loaden with goods, ready to run over one another, and removing goods from one burned house to another.” Samuel Pepys, describing the city on the Sunday evening.20160904_151911

fanned by an east wind….torching wooden houses and stone buildings.


John Evelyn; 3 September 1666

And as it burned the flames destroyed 13,200 houses, 44 Livery Halls, numerous warehouses along the banks of the Thames crammed with combustible materials; coal, tar, pitch, hemp, rosen and flax (ropes), Baynard’s Castle, the Great Conduit

and four bridges within the city as well as razing 87 medieval parish churches to the ground. Weirdly, the house of Samuel Pepys in Seething Lane remained standing….

Much terrified in the nights nowadays, with dreams of fire and falling down of houses. Samuel Pepys.
copyright John Yabbacome

Samuel Pepys’s house perchance? copyright belongs to John Y

Even that most holy of churches was not left unscathed, and St Paul’s, which had stood at the heart of London life for over 500 hundred years, the 4th cathedral to stand on this spot since 604AD,


Old St Paul’s Cathedral – the medieval church destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666

was consumed in the inferno, it’s roof melting in the heat,imag7697 causing molten lead, “glowing with fiery redness” to run in streams down Ludgate Hill. On Tuesday, September 4th, a combination of factors caused the building to burn with great ferocity; which catastrophic blaze consumed the cathedral….

copyright John Yabbacome

Old St Paul’s Cathedral – copyright belongs to John Y.

“Thus lay in ashes that most venerab[l]e Church, one of the [antientest] Pieces of early Piety in the Christian world, beside neere 100 more.” from the Diary of John Evelyn; September 7th 1666

….little did he know it then, but up and coming architect, Christopher Wren was just about to be given the biggest opportunity of his life….the rebuilding of the City of London churches, and St Paul’s Cathedral, his masterpiece that took 35 years to build!


The fire burned for just under five days, devastating the City, from Tower Hill in the East to Chancery Lane in the north, it swept westwards as far as Inner Temple Hall on the 4th day, which burned to the ground, and by some miracle it burned out before consuming Temple Church.


From the diary of John Evelyn – Tuesday September 4th, 1666

The burning still rages, and it was now gotten as far as the Inner Temple; all Fleet-street, the Old Bailey, Ludgate Hill, Warwick lane, Newgate, Paul’s chain, Watling street, now flaming, and most of it reduced to ashes; the stones of St Paul’s flew like (grenades), the melting lead running down the streets in a stream, and the very pavements glowing with redness, so as no horse nor man was able to tread on them, and the demolition had stopped all the passages, so that no help could be applied. The eastern wind still more impetuously driving the flames forward. Nothing but the almighty power of God was able to stop them, for vain was the help of man.
copyright John Yaddacome

London’s Burning

Lost to the inferno were countless treasures; art, books and documents, many of which were held in the Livery Companies Halls – 44 of which were completely destroyed; amongst which were the Cutlers Hall, Mercers Hall, Merchant Taylors Hall, Saddlers Hall, Brewers Hall, Coopers Hall, Drapers Hall, Dyers Hall, Fishmongers Hall, Innholders Hall, Pewterers Hall, Stationers and Newspaper Makers Hall, Tallow Chandlers Hall

and to add a touch of irony; the Bakers Hall!! city-of-london-livery-companies-bakers-hall-2
“We walked and walked and found nothing but heaps of stones and cellars still full of planks and smouldering beams.” Francisco de Rapicani.

Only 8 Livery Company Halls survived the fire; Armourers, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Cooks, Glovers, Ironmongers, Leather-sellers, and the Upholsterers…..others were partially damaged or destroyed by the fire and some were rebuilt, only to be destroyed during WW1 and WW2.


After the 6 centuries over which the Medieval city of London had slowly built up, and just five days after a small fire which began in that bakery on Pudding Lane,


Pudding Lane

the City of London stood in ruins, almost completely destroyed, and as he explored the ruined streets of London, John Evelyn described how the ground was still almost too hot to walk upon, how water in fountains still boiled, and how the iron bars and gates of prisons had melted.


The Medieval City of London – Agas map

6 months later, on March 16th, 1667 – Pepys recorded “I did see smoke remaining, coming out of some cellars from the late great fire now about six months since “.


Great Fire of London 1666

By 1680 London’s first Fire Brigade came into existence, funded by the insurance companies, and the first publicly funded fire service was created in 1861, following the Tooley Street fire.imag7849

The Great Fire of 1666 was not by any means the first fire to rage through the streets of London, it was however the most devastating, and has perhaps the most detailed recordings by way of the diaries of Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn and others.


Great Fire of London 1666

copyright John Yabbacome

1666 – 2016 The Great Fire of London 350th anniversay

Below is a map showing the extent of the Great Fire of London 1666the-photo-at-the-top-of-this-article-is-by-ben-sutherland-used-under-creative-commons-2-0-license-attribution-it-is-a-map-prepared-by-the-museum-of-london

Footnote: The majority of the photos in this blog are mine. A young man, John Y, whom I met at the burning of the effigy on Sunday kindly sent me some copies of his photos…I have noted them as such. Furthermore, for the purposes of this blog I have ‘borrowed’ a couple of graphics and a map from google images.

Read Full Post »

 On my ‘wish list’ was the desire to travel; and so I have, to villages and towns around the UK.   Not quite what I had in mind when I sent the message to the ‘Universe’, but there you go. 🙂

The latest on my travels is what at first glance appears to be a rather non-descript little village named ‘Cottenham’.

Cottenham, Cambridgeshire

On arriving in Cottenham you could be forgiven for thinking that it looked rather dull, albeit lined with some pretty little houses and some fine examples of Georgian and Gothic architecture, there was nothing much else to excite the senses. It reminded me a bit of that song by John Denver; Saturday Night in Toledo. Some of the lyrics go: “they roll back the sidewalks at night”.

...they roll back the sidewalks at night

Ah! But wait, we have yet to discover what lies beneath!

Cottenham it seems has in fact existed since prehistoric times, and scattered discoveries of Mesolthic and Neolithic tools have been made. Now we are talking! 

On a bend in the ‘High Street’, kind of halfway between here and there,

small part of the original settlement of Cottenham

on an area named the ‘pond’ of which there is currently no sign, are the markings of a very early ‘Roman’ settlement; now mostly built over with houses and buildings – the historic society has in fact been able to mark out the early boundaries of a formal settlement, long since disappeared into dust. 

What the area looks like now:

what was the original Saxon settlement site, now built over

part of the medieval Crowlands Manor, now built up

 Origin of the name Cottanham, appears to be Saxon, arising from the early English ‘Cotan’ for dwelling and ‘Ham’ for settlement. Most of the older houses along the High Street were at one time farmhouses.

The High Street, so named, is the longest in the country, measuring 1 & ¼ miles from the Green to the Church. The ‘Green’, a triangle of grass at one end of the village, is edged with lovely plane trees, planted in 1885 by Robert Ivatt, and was once the grazing ground for cattle, now an oasis of repose for the villagers, of which there are currently just over 5,000.

the Green at Cottenham, where they used to graze cows

Amongst the present inhabitants, many of whom are descendants of people who have lived here for centuries, are records of the Pepys family in the village since 1273 and the present Earl of Cottenham is a descendent of Samuel Pepys (the diarist) and recorder of the 1666 Fire of London.

Pepys house (Samuel Pepys; diarist used to live here)

Two thirds of Cottenham itself, was destroyed by fire in 1676 (mmm, seems perhaps we should take a closer look at Mr Pepys then!) The lady I was caring for has herself lived in the same house since the day she was born 84 years ago, and inherited the house from her parents.

Across from the Green and on the fork of two roads is the War Memorial – unveiled in 1921 in honour of fifty nine local men killed in the 1st World War.

memorial to fallen villagers WW1

On closer exploration are many fine houses, some of which are centuries old:

Queenholme built 16th century

The Wesleyan Chapel built 1864

The Gothic House built in the 1730s, was a red brick house, bought by the Ivatt family in 1770 and greatly altered around 1860 when the decorative chimneys were built.

Gothic House

front facade of the Gothic House

wisteria draped over the side of the Gothic House

detail above the front door

White Cottage – home to ancestors of Calvin Coolidge – American President 1923-29

White House (aptly named as it turns out)

As I explored the area on Sunday, I was drawn by the sound of bells pealing out their call to prayer! The ‘Parish Church of All Saints’; has evidence of a church on this site from the mid-10th century.

All Saints Church

The existing church was built in the 15th century, with a 100 ft tall church tower – and a sundial built into the side with the inscription – ‘time is short’.

'Time is short' inscription on the sundial

Across the road is the Old Rectory – dating back to the 16th century. In 1644 the Rectory was given to Oliver Cromwell’s sister; Robina. (I guess no-one would have argued with that).

At that point the road leaves the village proper and now becomes Twentypence Road – which derives it’s name from a parcel of thirty acres of land on the Cottenham side of the River Ouse, as described in Richard Atkins survey of the Fens in 1604.

Twentypence Road

At one time there were four pumps in the village, and with all but one subsequently removed, the remaining pump – erected in 1864, was moved to the Green in 1985 along with the horse-trough.

water pump and horse trough

Cottenham was a treasure trove of old houses, ancient history and houses with stories behind their walls.

Although the main road through the village was quite busy during the day the villagers seemed to prefer a lighter form of transport

the villagers preferred mode of transport!

On the sidewalk was a sight common in these villages; a sign board with description of goods for sale. In this instance ‘Pink Peony plants’, unattended, left on a stand or in a box or wheelbarrow, and as is common the instructions for payment are: “please put money through the letterbox”.

'Pink peony plants' - leave money in the letterbox

One day I discovered a book that detailed the history of the village and had a fine old time digging a bit deeper.

85 High Street; house of Fred Stone – watch and clockmaker and music teacher

house of Fred Stone - watch and clock maker

next door was the old Jolly Millers public house – burnt down in 1898 (now rebuilt)

Jolly Millers pub

Pond Villa’s built in 1902, and the last houses in the village to be built from Cotteham brick

Pond Villas

Pond Villas

120 High Street – Pond Farm; A group of fifty dissenting families, which called itself ‘The Church Congregation Society of the Protestant Dissenters of the Denomination of Independence’, worshipped in the barn behind this 17th century Farmhouse. Pond Farm was also the site for meetings of the Ranters, or Primitive Methodists.

Pond Farm

The village was a delight in it’s various architechtural styles.

Ivy House

Before leaving I took a stroll over to the old Saxon area to see the moat

Cotttenham moat

Cottenham moat - a scheduled ancient monument

The area has been listed by English Heritage as a scheduled ancient monument. The moat contains a small breeding population of great crested newt, which is strictly protected under European legislation.

And that was my excursion to Cottenham, a quaint English village in Cambridgeshire, not too far from Cambridge and a treasure trove of ancient and new.

Read Full Post »

Things Helen Loves

Life Outdoors & Travel Adventures

Closer to the edge

Walking the coastline of Britain

Short Walks & Long Paths

Wandering and exploring The Pembrokeshire & Wales Coast Paths

Port Side Travel By Jill

My travels, photos, tips/tricks and anything else I think of!


My 360: wonderwalls,theatre, travel, Sheffield, books...

Robyn's Ramblings

My Thoughts. Expressed.

Graham's Long Walk

Graham King's long walks around Britain

The Lawsons on the Loose

Philip & Heather are making memories through travelling. How lucky are we?