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Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
August 15, 2016

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022

The Great Fire of London in numbers and pictures

“The ordinary course of this Paper having been interrupted by a sad and lamentable accident of Fire lately hapned in the City of London: It hath been thought fit for satisfying the minds of so many of His Majesties good Subjects who must needs be concerned for the issue of so great an accident to give this short, but true Account of it.”

So began the London Gazette’s account of the Great Fire of London in September 1666 amid the smouldering wreckage of England’s great capital. Rather overwrought and laboured in getting to the point, it must be said – it’s safe to say that journalism has come on in leaps and bounds in the succeeding centuries (there wasn’t even a headline, as you can see in the picture of this edition at the foot of this article).

As the city marks the 350th anniversary of the blaze with numerous events and exhibitions, I’ve put together some visual content to convey the sheer scale and damage wrought by a fire that began in a baker’s shop and spread quickly from building to building then from street to street.

Fire! Fire! Fire! doth resound in every street, some starting out of their sleep and peering through the windows half dressed. Some in nightdresses rushing wildly about the streets crying piteously & praying to God for assistance, women carrying children in their arms & the men looking quite bewildered. Many cripples were also seen hobbling about not knowing which way to go to get free from the flames which were raging all round them. No man that had the sence of human miseries could unconcertedly behold the frightfull destruction made in one of the noblest Cities in the world.” The London Gazette. Monday, Septemb 3 to Monday, Septemp 10, 1666

Below is an advertisement for a 17th-century forerunner of the modern fire engine. Four men pumped water into a hose, which was aimed by another firefighter. The inscription reads: “These Engins, (which are the best) to quinch great Fires; are made by John Keeling in Black Fryers (after many years’ Experience).”

great fire of london fire appliance

Illustration from the trade card of John Keeling of Blackfriars (1670s)

‘Firehooks’ are deployed below to fight a fire at Tiverton, Devon in 1612. Less sophisticated than the rudimentary fire engine above these methods were no less effective because the fire engines travelled long distances and struggled through narrow streets against the tide of panicked citizens streaming out the city in the opposite direction. Several engines even toppled into the Thames amid the chaos.

great fire london hooks

‘Firehooks’ are deployed to fight a fire at Tiverton, Devon in 1612

The painting below, by an unknown painter, conveys the scale and destructiveness of the fire as it raged unchecked on the evening of 4 September 1666 – day two of the blaze. Drawn from a boat in the vicinity of Tower Wharf the picture takes in the Tower of London on the right and London Bridge on the left, while St Paul’s Cathedral is engulfed in the distance.

great fire london

The LONDONERS Lamentation, a broadside ballad published in 1666 giving an account of the fire, and of the limits of its destruction.

 

The LONDONERS Lamentation

The LONDONERS Lamentation, a broadside ballad published in 1666 giving an account of the fire, and of the limits of its destruction

Ludgate in flames below, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background (square tower without the spire) sitting impotently as the fire approaches.

great fire london ludgate

Oil painting by anonymous artist, ca. 1670

Panorama of the City of London in 1616 by Claes Visscher. Click on the image to see the image in its full-width glory.

Panorama of the City of London in 1616 by Claes Visscher

John Evelyn‘s radical architectural vision for a more liveable, practical London after the fire. The plan was rejected.

John Evelyn's plan for City of London after great fire

The London Gazette for 3–10 September, facsimile front page with an account of the Great Fire. Click on the image to enlarge and read.

The London Gazette for 3–10 September, facsimile front page with an account of the Great Fire

The London Gazette for 3–10 September, facsimile front page with an account of the Great Fire

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