The Monument to the Great Fire of London

Tunde FolawiyoThe Monument to the Great Fire of London, or merely “the Monument” as it is known, will be familiar to those interested in London history such as Tunde Folawiyo. It is situated at the northern end of London Bridge; at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Hill Street, just 62 metres from the spot where the Great Fire of London broke out on 2nd September, 1666.

17th Century London was a very different place from the city we see today. By 1665, a terrifying pandemic was sweeping across England, claiming a great many lives.  In London alone, an estimated 100,000 people died: approximately 15% of the city’s population.

The bubonic plague, or the “Black Death” as it was known, was inadvertently introduced to the country by sail ships returning from the continent. The disease was carried by black rats, or more particularly, the fleas carried by them, which swept across the country spreading the disease in humans.

The Great Fire of London began on Sunday, 2nd September, with the city already in the grip of this terrible pandemic. The Great fire started in Pudding Lane, at a bakery shortly after midnight, and quickly spread across the city of London.  Largely owing to high wind; a dry summer and the profligate use of timber of the era, combined with the close proximity of dwellings (particularly in the poorer areas), the Great Fire ripped through London.

With the aid of Samuel Pepys and the Admiral of the British Navy, the Great Fire was finally put out. It raged for four whole days.  By the time it was over, 80% of the city had been destroyed, including 13,000 houses and 89 churches. 100,000 Londoners found themselves homeless. There were reported to be only 6 deaths as a direct result of the Great Fire, though there are suspected to be many more that went unreported.

In this cloud of carnage, there was however a silver lining to be found.  The bubonic plague which had killed so many had been eliminated from the city when the rat-infested properties were raised to the ground.

The city was built anew, under the careful guidance of none other than Christopher Wren. He built the Monument to London’s suffering under the Great Fire. The Monument is a Doric column, the apex of which is reached by no less than 311 steps, offering a grand vista across London, a city close to the heart of those keen on history like Tunde Folawiyo.  Follow Tunde Folawiyo on Follr and find out more about this London School of Economics Graduate and Duke of Edinburgh World Fellowship member.

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