Christopher Wren’s plan for London

Following the Great Fire that destroyed much of London in early September 1666, Christopher Wren put forward a plan for the rebuilding of the city. It was rejected.

This is a dated 1744 plan, which is allegedly a copy of the original.

Though aspects of the plan would not have been feasible, had it been accepted and used it would have significantly modernised London.

An extremely scarce 1744 map of London showing Sir Christopher Wren's plan for reconstructing the city following the 1666 Great Fire of London.

On this day: the Great Fire of London began

Great_Fire_LondonDetail of the Great Fire of London by an unknown painter, depicting the fire as it would have appeared on the evening of Tuesday, 4 September 1666.

A depiction of the fire as it was on the 4th of September, by an unknown painter.

The tallest flames surround St Paul’s.

Shortly after midnight on the second of September, 1666, a fire broke out in a bakery on Pudding Lane in the City of London (the part of London that falls in the Roman “Square Mile”). It quickly became out of control, and would go on to become the Great Fire, destroying the homes of 70 000 of the 80 000 inhabitants of the area, and wiping out the London of the Middle Ages.

Despite the size of the catastrophe, only six deaths were recorded. However, it is likely the deaths and disappearances of poorer people were never registered.

Copperplate_map_Bridewell Bridewell Palace London in the 1550s.

Bridewell Palace in the 1550s

Included in the destruction was St Paul’s Cathedral, as well as eighty-seven parish churches, the Royal Exchange, Bridewell Palace (which at the time was operating as a prison), and a number of city gates.

Old St Paul's Cathedral in London

Old St Paul’s

The fire burnt until the fifth of September.

The Second Great Fire of London

I’m going to be honest and admit I’d forgotten all about “The Second Great Fire of London” until I was randomly Googling images of London a few weeks ago and came across this photo of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is one of the iconic photographs of London, titled, St Paul’s Survives.

 The Blitz London 29th December 1940

I briefly lived and worked in a building that was rebuilt immediately after The Great Fire of London, and I always associate the words “Great Fire” with 1666. Of course, this was a very different kind of fire, an act of war, and it took place some 274 years later.

 Detail of the Great Fire of London by an unknown painter.

The Second Great Fire took place from the 29th to the 30th of December, 1940, when London came under heavy fire from Germany. Over 24,000 high explosive bombs and 100,000 incendiary bombs were dropped.

 Bomb_Damage_in_London_during_the_Second_World_War_HU36157

Ironically, the Germans used the picture in their own publications, as proof the bombing was working. How strange that a photograph can be used for two such different purposes.

 The cover of Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, which published this image in their January 1941 issue as proof that their bombing campaign was working.

The bombing left hundreds dead and injured and destroyed many of London’s famous buildings. Every time I think of World War Two, all I can think is: What a waste. What did it achieve?