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THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON.
1666. 2d September. This fatal night about ten began that deplorable fire near Fish Streete in London.
3d. The fire continuing, after dinner I took coach, with my wife and sonn and went to the Bank side in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole citty in dreadful flames near ye water side ; all the houses from the Bridge, all Thames Streete, and upwards towards Cheapeside, downe to the Three Cranes, were now consum'd.
The fire having continu'd all this night (if I may call that night which was light as day for ten miles round about, after a dreadful manner), when conspiring with a fierce eastern wind in a very drie season, I went on foote to the same place, and saw the whole south part of ye citty burning from Cheapside to ye Thames and all along Cornehill (for it kindld back against ye wind as well as forward), Tower Streete, Fenchurch Streete, Gracious Streete, and so along to Bainard's Castle, and was now taking hold of St. Paule's church, to which the scaffolds contributed exceedingly. The conflagration was so universal and the people so astonish'd, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirr'd to quench it, so that there was nothing heard or seene but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their goods, such a strange consternation there was upon them, so as it burned both in breadth and length, the churches, publiq halls, exchange, hospitals, monuments, and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house and streete to streete, at great distances one from ye other; for ye heate with a long set of faire and warme weather had
even ignited the air and prepard the materials to conceive the fire, which deyourd, after an incredible manner, houses, furniture, and everything. Here we saw the Thames cover'd with goods floating, all the barges and boates laden with what some had time and courage to save, as, on y other, yo carts, &c., carrying out to the fields, which for many miles were strew'd with moveables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. Oh the miserable and calamitous spectacle ! such as haply the world had not seene the like since the foundation of it, nor be outdone till the universal conflagration. All the skie was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, the light seene above forty miles round about for many nights. God grant my eyes may never behold the like, now seeing above ten thousand houses all in one flame : the noise, and cracking, and thunder of the impetuous flames, ye shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like an hideous storme, and the aire all about so hot and inflam'd, that at last one was not able to approach it, so that they were forc'd to stand still and let the flames burn on, wch they did for neere two miles in length, and one in bredth. The clouds of smoke were dismall, and reach'd upon computation near fifty miles in length. Thus I left it this afternoone burning, a resemblance of Sodom or the last day. London was, but is no more.
4th. The burning still rages, and it was now gotten as far as the Inner Temple, all Fleete Streete, the Old Bailey, Ludgate Hill, Warwick Lane, Newgate, Paul's Chain, Watling Streete, now flaming, and most of it reduced to ashes; the stones of Paules flew like grenados, yo mealting lead running downe the streetes in a streame, and the very pavements glowing with fiery rednesse, so as no horse nor man was able to tread on them, and the demolition had stopp'd all the passages, so that no help could be applied. The eastern wind still more impetuously drove the flames forward. Nothing but ye Almighty power of God was able to stop them, for vaine was ye help of man.
5th. It crossed towards Whitehall: Oh the confusion there was then at that court! It pleased his Maty to command me among ye rest to looke after the quenching of Fetter Lane end, to preserve, if possible, that part of Holborn, whilst the rest of y gentlemen tooke their several posts (for now they began to bestir themselves, and not till now, who hitherto had stood as men intoxicated, with their hands acrosse), and began to consider that nothing was likely to put a stop but the blowing up of so many houses, as might make a wider gap than any had yet been made by the ordinary method of pulling them down with engines; this some stout seamen proposed early enough to have sav'd near ye whole citty, but this some tenacious and avaritious men, aldermen, &c., would not permit, because their houses must have been of the first. It was therefore now commanded to be practis'd, and my concern being particularly for the hospital of St. Bartholomew, neere Smithfield, where I had many wounded and sick men, made me the more diligent to promote it, nor was my care for the Savoy lesse. It now pleas’d God, by abating the wind, and by the industrie of ye people, infusing a new spirit into them, that the fury of it began sensibly to abate about noone, so as it came no farther than ye Temple westward, nor than ye entrance of Smithfield north. But continu'd all this day and night so impetuous towards Cripplegate and the Tower, as made us all despaire ; it also broke out againe in the Temple, but the courage of the multitude persisting, and many houses being blown up, such gaps and desolations were soone made, as with the former three days' consumption, the back fire did not so vehemently urge upon the rest as formerly, There was yet no standing neere the burning and glowing ruines by neere a furlong's space.
The coale and wood wharfes and magazines of oyle, rosin, &c., did infinite mischeife, so as the ivective which a little before I had dedicated to his Maty, and publish'd, giving warning what might probably be the issue of suffering those shops to be in the citty, was looked on as a prophecy.
The poore inhabitants were dispers'd about St. George's Fields, and Moorefields, as far as Highgate, and severall miles in circle, some under tents, some under miserable hutts and hovells, many without a rag, or any necessary utensils, bed or board, who, from delicatenesse, riches, and easy accommodations in stately and well furnish'd houses, were now reduc'd to extreamest misery and poverty
In this calamitous condition, I return'd with a sad heart to my house, blessing and adoring the mercy of God to me and mine, who in the midst of all this ruine was like Lot, in my little Zoar, safe and sound.
7th. I went this morning on foote fm Whitehall as far as London Bridge, thro' the late Fleete Street, Ludgate Hill, by St. Paule's, Cheapeside, Exchange, Bishopgate, Aldersgate, and out to Moorefields, thence thro' Cornehill, &c., with extraordinary difficulty, clambering over heaps of yet smoking rubbish, and frequently mistaking where I was. The ground under my feete was so hot, that it even burnt the soles of my shoes. In the meantime his Maty got to the Tower by water, to demolish ye houses about the graff, which being built intirely about it, had they taken fire and attack'd the White Tower where the magazine of powder lay, would undoubtedly not only have beaten downe and destroy'd all ye bridge, but sunke and torne the vessells in ye river, and renderd ye demolition beyond all expression for several miles about the countrey.
At my return, I was infinitely concern'd to find that goodly church of St Paules, now a sad ruine, and that beautiful portico (for structure comparable to any in Europe, as not long before repaired by the king) now rent in pieces, flakes of vast stone split asunder, and nothing remaining intire but the inscription in the architrave, showing by whom it was built, which had not one letter of it defac’d. It was astonishing to see what immense stones the heat had in a manner calcin'd, so that all ye ornaments, columns, freezes, and projectures of massie Portland stone flew off, even to ye very roofe, where a sheet of lead covering a great space was totally mealted ; the ruines of the vaulted roofe falling broke into St Faith's, which being filled with the magazines of bookes belonging to ye stationers, and carried thither for safety, they were all consum'd, burning for a weeke following. It is also observable, that the lead over ye altar at ye east end was untouch'd, and among the divers monuments, the body of one bishop remain'd intire. Thus lay in ashes that most venerable church, one of the most ancient pieces of early piety in ye Christian world, besides neare one hundred more.
The lead, yron worke, bells, plate, &c., mealted; the exquisitely wrought Mercers Chapell, the sumptuous Exchange, ye august fabriq of Christ Church, all ye rest of the Companies Halls, sumptuous buildings, arches, all in dust; the fountaines dried up and ruin'd, whilst the very waters remain’d boiling ; the vorago's of subterranean cellars, wells, and dungeons, formerly warehouses, still burning in stench and dark clouds