What Caused The Great Fire of London?

The Great Fire of London swept through the city on four fateful days in 1666. By the end, thousands were homeless, and London was in ruins. In this article, we will cover what caused The Great Fire of London?

Image of the Great Fire of London
The Great Fire Of London By Unknown

On Sunday, September 6th, at about 1:00 a.m., Thomas Farriner’s family was (possibly) woken up by the smell of smoke and fumes that came from their bakery. They had to climb out through a window leaving their maid—who was too scared to try—behind. Neighbors who were also woken up by the fire tried to quench it with all the strategies they could think of because if they didn’t, their houses were next on line.

All their efforts proved futile as the fire steadily crept from house to house. What fueled the spread of the fire was the presence of so many warehouses containing flammable substances in them plus the strong east winds that blew following the dry summer.

At the time, the only fire control techniques the city practiced was fire breaks. They would demolish buildings close to the source of the fire to stall the fire from spreading. After one hour of frantically trying to put out the fire, the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth was called upon. The firemen pleaded with him to allow them to bring down the adjoining buildings, but he refused.

Seeing that they had no other option, Londoners quickly took to their heels, barely taking along any possessions. It was this wise move that kept the mortality rate below hundreds. Some reports say only seven lives were lost, but for a fire that could melt pottery, human bones would incinerate.

By Tuesday morning, it was apparent that the fire was not retreating, and that was when the Mayor’s intuition advised him to do something about it. He made an order for the remaining buildings around the city to be blown up using gunpowder. The firemen worked hard, but the wind worked even harder, blowing the fire across the gaps. By Thursday evening, the city extinguished the fire, but that was after it had taken over 13,000 houses and 87 churches.

What Directly Caused the Great Fire Of London?

Some people believed the fire started from a spark by Thomas Farriner’s oven. However, Robert Hubert came forward to confess that he started the Great Fire. After being tried, he was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death by hanging. It was not until after his execution that the people found out that Hubert was not even Pudding Lane the day the fire started.

Another suspect in the event was the Dutch Republic, who was England’s opponent in the Second Dutch-Anglo War. Interestingly, the Dutch saw it as a “divine retribution” for provoking the war.

Save for these general assumptions, no other logical explanations exist. Interestingly, the fire was possibly predicted by William Lily 5 years before. Lily was an astrologer who happened to predict the future of England in images that showed a wildfire consuming a city.

We often look for cosmic or divine explanations for horrific events like The Great Fire of London. Usually, the real cause is something simple. In this case, chances are Thomas Farriner’s oven has always been the culprit

Alan Behrens
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