A History In Numbers
Above: Ludgate burning in the Great Fire of London, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Detail from a hand-coloured etching by William Russell Birch, 1792 © Trustees of the British Museum.
In 1666 the City of London was a random cluster of close-packed houses, mostly timber-framed, arranged in narrow streets and alleyways where rich and poor lived in close proximity. Large areas were slum tenements.
Some parts of the City had changed little since medieval times, and all manner of noxious trades took place, often from the same buildings within which the traders and craftsmen lived.
Although Londoners were well-used to fires, a long, hot summer, a sudden period of strong winds, and a fire breaking out late at night were all that was needed to start the worst fire Britain had ever seen. Here we present all of the key details of the Great Fire, the people involved, and the aftermath.
10 Facts About The Fire
London at the time of the fire
100,000 – the estimated population of the City of London at the time of the fire.
The devastating fire
5 days – the period that the Great Fire burned (although smaller fires continued for days and weeks afterwards).
The first day of the fire
100 – having started with a single fire at around 1.00 a.m., the estimated number of houses catching fire every hour by Sunday afternoon.
The second day of the fire
50% – the approximate amount of the City of London destroyed by the fire by the Monday evening.
The third day of the fire
600,000 lbs – the approximate amount of gunpowder barrels being stored at the Tower of London, requiring desperate efforts to move it unless the fire should cause a huge explosion that would destroy the city for miles around.
The fourth day of the fire
1 – the number of major fires that remained alight on Wednesday evening.
The fifth day of the fire
8 – the number of temporary markets set up to ensure the provision of food for those rendered homeless by the fire.
After the Great Fire of London
13,200 – the number of houses destroyed in the Great Fire, rendering 80% of the population homeless.
Key people involved in the fire
51 – the approximate age of Thomas Farriner, the owner of the bakery in Pudding Lane where the fire started.
Rebuilding London after the fire
0% – the percentage of Londoners who were insured against fires; it would be another 14 years before London’s first fire insurance company emerged.