The Great Fire of London began on the night of September 2, 1666, as a small fire on Pudding Lane, in the bakeshop of Thomas Farynor, baker to King Charles II. At one o'clock in the morning, a servant woke to find the house aflame, and the baker and his family escaped, but a fear-struck maid perished in the blaze.
At this time, most London houses were of wood and pitch construction, dangerously flammable, and it did not take long for the fire to expand. The fire leapt to the hay and feed piles on the yard of the Star Inn at Fish Street Hill, and spread to the Inn. The strong wind that blew that night sent sparks that next ignited the Church of St. Margaret, and then spread to Thames Street, with its riverside warehouses and wharves filled with food for the flames: hemp, oil, tallow, hay, timber, coal and spirits along with other combustibles. The citizen fire fighting brigades had little success in containing the fire with their buckets of water from the river. By eight o'clock in the morning, the fire had spread halfway across London Bridge. The only thing that stopped the fire from spreading to Southwark, on the other side of the river, was the gap that had been caused by the fire of 1633.
The standard procedure to stop a fire from spreading had always been to destroy the houses on the path of the flames, creating "fire-breaks", to deprive a fire from fuel. Lord Mayor Bludworth, however, was hesitant, worrying about the cost of rebuilding. By the time a Royal command came down, carried by Samuel Pepys, the fire was too out of control to stop. The Trained Bands of London were called in to demolish houses by gunpowder, but often the rubble was too much to be cleared before the fire was at hand, and only eased the fire's way onward. The fire blazed unchecked for another three days, until it halted near Temple Church. Then, it suddenly sprang to life again, continuing towards Westminster. The Duke of York (later King James II) had the presence of mind to order the Paper House demolished to create a fire break, and the fire finally died down.
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