Essay on The Great Fire of London

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:History

Document 1

Candles were used as sources of light in homes and open fires for cooking. From such a description it is easy to conclude that a fire could easily become uncontrollable (Weiss and Papin 4). Also, during this time, firefighting equipment or firemen were not in existence and thus could not stop a developing fire. The Great Fire of London is among the most popular disasters of all times in the history of London. Before this fire there were other incidences of fire that had caused great destructions in this manner. Furthermore, the area surrounding Pudding Lane was filled with warehouses that contained highly flammable materials such as rope, timber and oil. Also, the presence of strong winds from the east helped to blow the fire and spread it to houses within the narrow streets of London.

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Following the excavations of a burnt-out shop that was near the bakery in 1979, archaeologists discovered charred remnants of tar. Scientifically, tar is known to be highly flammable hence, it could have catalyzed the spread of the fire. Other burnt remnants from the shop were melted fragments of pottery, an indication that the temperatures as a result of the fire were as high as 1700 degrees Celsius. Predictions had been made prior to the great fire. The people of London had been expecting the city to be destroyed by fire for many years. Additionally, Kind Charles in the previous year has written to the Lord Mayor warning him of the risk of fire because of the narrow streets and overhanging wooden houses. Prophets had also been predicting the doom of London long before the fire (Alagna 19).

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The Catholic Church, Protestant churches, religious men, wrote letters and pamphlets with sermons that god would punish London for its sins through a great fire. Gunpowder was used on the 4th to blow up houses. It was a quicker way of stopping the fire by forming gaps that hindered the fire from crossing thus allowing the firefighters to be in full control of the fire and stopping it from spreading further (Alagna 33). By Wednesday morning, the wind had started to reduce, something that helped contain the fire. On this day, the Kind and his brother James, then the Duke of York organized the firefighting. They recruited members of the Privy Council among other noblemen to supervise the groups of firefighters. Soldiers from different counties within London arrived the same night to relieve the tired firefighters.

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The fire was slowly extinguished throughout Wednesday, but further fire outbreaks were witnessed the Cripplegate and Temple the same night. By Thursday the fire was finally out. Even though London continuously experienced other fire outbreaks after the Great Fire, there were slow improvements to firefighting methods. The city continued to suffer from fires despite the improvements in the structures of building and design of streets following the Great Fire. Nicholas Barbon, a contractor and businessman in 1680 established the first fire insurance company. This other insurance companies that followed offered firefighting services which was part of the insurance cover. In 1865, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act was passed resulting in a fire service that was funded by the people of London. This was after insurance companies realized the need to work in unison.

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