The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed a quarter of seventeenth-century London and left 100,000 people homeless. More than three centuries later, we’re still hot for the story. How it started was one of the city’s most Googled questions last year.
The blaze started at Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane between 1am and 2am on September 2 1666. ‘The flames were fanned by a lethal combination of storm winds and dry weather,’ says Meriel Jeater, curator at the Museum of London. ‘The area around Pudding Lane was full of warehouses containing highly flammable products like tar, alcohol, oil and rope. The resulting fire lasted nearly five days.’
Farriner, understandably, denied responsibility and claimed it must have been arson as all his fires, bar one, were out that night. Enter Frenchman Robert Hubert, who said he had put a fireball through the bakery window as part of a conspiracy to burn the capital to the ground. No proof of such a plot was found and Hubert’s yarn was full of holes; the judges deemed him insane, but he was still convicted and hanged. Either way – sloppy baker or delusional Frenchman – a massive bit of the capital was toast.