The Monument, London EC3R 8AH

by Telesto

The Great Fire of London started on Sunday, 2 September 1666 and wasn't completely extinguished until Thursday, 6 September, with a loss of over 13,000 houses.

Picture the scene: London, 1665. Stuart England. The summer had been hot. Very hot. The population was increasing, the houses were close together. There was no sewerage system to speak of (unless you call throwing waste in the street or the river a sewerage system) and certainly no council rubbish collections. The rat population had not reduced as would have been expected because the preceding winter had been so mild. (The gestation period of a rat is about 21 days, so they were breeding like, well, rats.) London was filthy, no wonder the Great Plague spread so quickly. It is estimated to have killed about 100,000 people, which would have been around 15% of the population of the time. 1665 was not London’s finest moment.

The Monument was built to commemorate the fire and the rebuilding of the City. AT 202 feet high, you will get a fabulous, panoramic view of the city, well worth the visit.

The Monument in Fish Street Hill

Picture the scene:  London, 1665.  Stuart England.  The summer had been hot.  Very hot.  The population was increasing, the houses were close together.  There was no sewerage system to speak of (unless you call throwing waste in the street or the river a sewerage system) and certainly no council rubbish collections.  The rat population had not reduced as would have been expected because the preceding winter had been so mild.  (The gestation period of a rat is about 21 days, so they were breeding like, well, rats.)  London was filthy, no wonder the Great Plague spread so quickly.   It is estimated to have killed about 100,000 people, which would have been around 15% of the population of the time.  1665 was not London’s finest moment.

 

London, before and after the Great Fire
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 A year later, the city was just recovering when - on the face of it - tragedy struck again.  Thomas Farriner (sometimes spelt Farynor) had a bakery in the aptly named Pudding Lane.  One of his maids is credited with failing to put out the ovens at close of business, which, in a wooden building, easily caused a fire on Sunday, 2 September 1666.  The maid was one of the (alleged) five human victims of the fire as she was unable to escape the building.  Most of London was made of wooden buildings, and the fire quickly spread.  Nothing unusual in that, fires were commonplace in London in those days. 

 The Mayor of London was awoken, but he was unconcerned.  I won’t repeat exactly what was reputed to have said, but it meant that he didn’t take the fire too seriously.  However, by the following morning, London was burning.  London Bridge was alight, and the only thing that stopped the whole bridge burning was an open space which acted as a firebreak. 

King Charles II took charge, in order to try to save the city.  He planned to create firebreaks by demolishing buildings in the fire’s way, although initially this failed, because the strong winds blew the flames over the gaps created.  The heat from the fire melted the lead roof of the St Paul’s Cathedral that was standing at that time. 

 It wasn’t until Wednesday, 5 September, when with a combination of a change in the weather and a change in the fabric of the buildings, that the fire eventually started to come under control.  It was finally extinguished on Thursday, having destroyed 373 acres of the city from the Tower in the east to Fleet Street in the west.  84 churches, the old St Paul’s, over 13,000 houses and 44 company halls were destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

 And so, between 1671 and 1677, the Monument was built to commemorate the fire and the 

 rebuilding of the City.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke - Wren also re-built St Paul’s Cathedral - as a single Doric column.  It is built of Portland Stone with a drum and copper urn depicting flames emerging at the top and is 202 feet high.  I was taught at school that, if you laid the Monument down, it would reach exactly the point where the fire started in Pudding Lane - yes, Pudding Lane is still there! 

 There is no lift and the 311 steps to the viewing platform are neither for the fainthearted nor the unfit!  They run in a spiral from ground to the viewing platform and they are not very wide.  There is nowhere to stop and you pass people coming down as you are going up.  Despite this, it’s well worth the visit.  Your prize for reaching the top is a magnificent view across London.  It is spectacular.  The viewing platform isn’t huge, but you can walk all the way around and see London from every direction.  Your prize for making it back to the bottom is a certificate to say that you’ve been there. 

 The nearest underground station is Monument, which is on the District (green) line, and you can travel directly there from Victoria Station.  Adult entrance is £3.  The Monument is open daily from 09:30 to 18:00 April to September (last admission at 17:30) and 09:30 to 17:30 October to March (last admission at 17:00).  There is no wheelchair access.  There are a number of places to eat and drink nearby. 

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The Great Fire of London (September 1666) with Ludgate and Old St Paul's, C.1670 (Oil on Canvas)
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Updated: 03/25/2014, Telesto
 
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Telesto on 03/18/2014

You wil love it Mira. Thank you for your message. :-)

Mira on 03/18/2014

Wow, thank you! I'll go up there next time I visit London :)

Telesto on 03/18/2014

Take oxygen Jo. I confess to not making it to the top without having to stop and pant!

JoHarrington on 03/17/2014

I've stared up in fascination at The Monument, read all of the inscriptions and looked at the fresco, without ever once realising that you can climb the thing! How did I miss that?

I know what I'm going to be doing next time I go to London.

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