Great Fire of London: How a bakery destroyed a city

The Great Fire of London was a catastrophic blaze which swept through the old, largely wooden, city in 1666. It started in Pudding Lane, close to where the Monument to the Great Fire of London now stands, in a baker's shop owned by Robert Farriner.

It began on 2nd September and quickly spread across the city, destroying around 87 churches, plus St Paul's Cathedral and a staggering 13,200 houses. Despite this, only six deaths were recorded, although it is thought the total was significantly higher, with many paupers perishing unnoticed in the flames.

The spread of the fire was aided by strong winds and dry timber houses, so it raged quickly from the Tower of London in the East to Temple Bar (by the Royal Courts of Justice) in the West. 373 acres of London blazed and the fire was only stopped, after several days, by a change in wind direction and the creation of a fire break by blowing up houses around Pye Lane, where the Golden Boy of Gluttony now stands.

In a strange footnote, a mad Frenchman called Robert Hubert, later confessed to torching the bakery, and starting the Great Fire. Despite the fact that Hubert was out of the country at the time and severely crippled, he insisted he was a French spy and had fire bombed the bakery through the window, before sabotaging the water supply. Farrier's bakery had no windows. Eventually the authorities, desperate to appease London's citizens who wanted someone to blame, hanged him at Tyburn, despite knowing his ‘confession' was false.