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finally mastered. On the Sunday Pepys had gone to Whitehall to tell the King and Duke of York. He returned to the City with instructions for the Lord Mayor from the King to pull down houses in every direction to arrest the course of the fire. The Lord Mayor (Sir Thomas Bludworth) seems to have been but a poor creature, for when he heard the King's message, he cried, like a fainting woman, “ Lord ! what can I do? I am spent; people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.”
The King and the Duke of York showed themselves better men at this time. They were very active, and did their utmost to encourage those around them to help in stopping the fire. Lady Carteret told Pepys a curious little fact, which was that abundance of pieces of burnt paper were driven by the wind as far as Cranborne in Windsor Park, and among others she took up one, or had one brought her to see, which was a little bit of paper that had been printed, whereon there remained no more nor less than these words, “Time is it is done.”
The Fire consumed about five-sixths of the whole City, and outside the walls a space was cleared about equal to the sixth part left unburnt within. The total clearance was equal to an oblong square of a mile and a half in length, and half a mile in breadth.
The monument which was raised to commemorate this great calamity had an inscription placed upon it, with some particulars taken from the reports of the surveyors. “The ruins of the City were 436 acres (viz. 373 acres within the walls and 63 without them, but within the liberties) ; of the six and twenty wards it utterly destroyed fifteen, and left eight others shattered and half-burnt; it consumed eighty-nine churches, four of the City gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, a great number of stately edifices, 13,200 dwelling-houses, and 460 streets.' The inscription, which caused Pope to write
Where London's column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies, was set up in 1681, during the period of terror caused by the false swearing of Titus Oates and his gang. This inscription, which was finally erased in 1831, stated that the fire was “begun and carryed on by ye treachery and malice of ye Popish faction ... in order to ye carrying on their horrid plott for extirpating the Protestant Religion and old English liberty, and the introducing Popery and Slavery.”
The distress of those who were made houseless by the fire was great.
The river swarmed with vessels filled with persons carrying away such of their goods as they were able to save. Westminster Hall was filled with the citizens' goods and merchandise. Treasure was
1 Diary, February 3, 1666-1667.
buried in the suburbs, as at Bethnal Green and many other places. Some of the people fled to the hills of Hampstead and Highgate, but Moorfields was the chief resort of the houseless Londoner. Soon paved streets and two-storey houses were seen in that swampy place.
We are apt to look upon Charles II.'s reign as a very dark period of our history, and with justice; but the heroism of the sufferers in this national calamity shines out brightly, and we cannot too highly praise the fortitude which was exhibited by high and low. The merchants complied with the demands of their foreign correspondents as if no disaster had happened, and not one failure was heard of. Henry Oldenburg, writing to the Hon. Robert Boyle, on September 10, says, “The citizens, instead of complaining, discoursed almost of nothing but of a survey for rebuilding the City with bricks and large streets."
Gresham College in Bishopsgate Street was converted into an Exchange and Guildhall
, and the Royal Society which met there removed to Arundel House. The affairs of the Excise Office were transacted in Southampton Fields, near Bedford House. The Post Office was removed to Brydges Street, Covent Garden; Doctors' Commons to Exeter House, Strand; and the King's Wardrobe from Puddle Wharf to York Buildings.
Within a few days of the fire three several plans were presented to the King for the rebuilding of the City—one by Christopher Wren, another by John Evelyn, and a third by Robert Hooke. Evelyn, in a letter to Sir Samuel Tuke, wrote, “ Dr. Wren got the start of me, but both of us did coincide so frequently that his Majesty was not displeased."
Wren proposed to build main thoroughfares north and south, east and west ; to insulate all the churches in conspicuous positions, to form the most public places into huge piazzas, to unite the halls of the chief companies into one regular square annexed to Guildhall, and to make a fine quay on the bank of the river from Blackfriars to the Tower. His streets were to be of three magnitudes-90 feet, 60 feet and 30 feet wide respectively. The whole area of the City was to be levelled, and blind alleys, inferior buildings, graveyards, and noxious trades were to be excluded.
The Exchange was to stand free, and to be as it were the centre of the town. St. Paul's was to stand like the narrow end of a wedge formed by the two straight streets from Ludgate to Aldgate and Tower Hill respectively, and many streets were to radiate from London Bridge.
There is some evidence to suppose that a beginning was made of this plan, for Pepys notes in his Diary, “The great streets in the City are marked out with piles drove into the ground, and if ever it be built in that form with so fair streets it will be a noble sight.”
It is usual to condemn the citizens, and to regret the non-adoption of Wren's plan, but something may be urged on the other side. In the first place, Wren only planned out the area within the walls, and
made no provision for growth. Then it was not considered that more bridges might be required, and the quays from Blackfriars to the Tower would have afforded but little facility for the growth of that commerce which has made London the port of the world. It is, therefore, open to question whether a city laid out on this uniform plan, with little provision for any but the rich, would have grown, without some modification, into the London of to-day.
Evelyn's plan differed from that of Wren chiefly in proposing a street from the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East to the Cathedral, and in having no quay or terrace along the river. He wished, however, to employ the rubbish he obtained by levelling the streets for filling up the shore of the Thames to low water-mark, so as to keep the basin always full.
On September 19 Robert Hooke exhibited his model for rebuilding London before the Council of the Royal Society, and it is said that the Lord Mayor and Aldermen preferred it to Wren's plan. All the chief streets were designed to run in an exact straight line, and all the cross streets to turn out of these at right angles. All the churches, public buildings, market-places, and the like, were to be arranged in proper and convenient places.
In spite of the multitude of counsellors, the jealousies of the citizens prevented any systematic design from being carried out, and in consequence the old lines were in almost all cases retained.
A very excellent proposal was made by Colonel Birch in Parliament for the purpose of carrying out a uniform plan for rebuilding. It was that the whole ground of London should be sold and placed in trust, and that the trustees should sell again with preference to the former owners. Unfortunately this simple proposal was not adopted.
Although measures were taken for rebuilding, London remained in ruins for many months, and as late as April 23, 1668, Pepys describes himself as wearily walking round the walls in order to escape the dangers within.
Although the chief responsibility of rebuilding the whole City devolved upon Wren, that great man recognised the advantage of obtaining the skilled assistance of Hooke, and for several years the two worked together. Hooke's model drew the attention of the Corporation to him, and obtained for him the position of City Surveyor. He laid out the ground of the several proprietors in the rebuilding, and had no rest early or late from persons soliciting him to set out their ground for them at once. No doubt there were many heartburnings at this time, but on the whole every one seems to have been fairly well satisfied. It is said that the Commissioners, who were appointed by Parliament to settle all differences arising out of the rebuildings, gave such satisfaction that their portraits were painted at the expense of the citizens for £60 apiece.
Although as antiquaries we may regret the interesting relics of past ages which were swept out of existence by the ruthless flames, we
cannot but rejoice as Londoners at the sanitary improvement caused by the clearing away of alleys and courts reeking with pestilence. In illustration of this, it is only necessary to point to the fact that before the fire the plague constantly visited the City, and since that time it has not been heard of therein.
Hundreds of fine old mansions were destroyed, and many public buildings. Of the 98 parish churches within the walls 85 were burnt down, and 13 left standing—35 of the destroyed churches were not rebuilt, and their parishes were joined to others. The greatest loss of all, however, was that of the noble Cathedral of St. Paul's, a building indissolubly connected with our old literature. The beautiful spire, rising 208 feet above the tower, had been destroyed long before, but the splendid building itself, with its good but incongruous portico by Inigo Jones, the handsome tomb of Sir Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, called and universally supposed to be the tomb of the good Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the innumerable chapels, and the world-renowned Paul's Cross—all perished completely and left the world the poorer.
Although much was destroyed, much was also saved, and we have still some relics of the elder time around us. There are the Tower, Great St. Bartholomew's, and the Temple Church among the chief of those historical buildings which were rescued from the flames. The church of St. Olave's, Hart Street, very narrowly escaped, and Pepys relates his fears for the Navy Office and the adjoining church.
London was fortunate in possessing such an architect as Wren, who was equal to the occasion which so unexpectedly presented itself. He stamped his genius upon the new London which arose from the ashes of the old. Not only are his churches, from the cathedral downwards, beautiful in design as buildings, but they all bear their part in the general effect. Each one helps to enhance the picturesque design which the architect produced. Unfortunately in these latter days we have done all in our power to destroy this design, and in some instances we have needlessly destroyed some of these elegant churches.
When the City was in ruins the citizens feared that business might leave its old haunts and move westward, but when the City was rebuilt these fears were proved to be groundless, and business went on as before in its old grooves.
The growth until the end of the last century was almost entirely along the course of the Thames. The citizens lived eastward in Essex, and fashionable persons westward near the court.
Westminster and London had a distinct origin, but gradually they were joined, and at last they became practically one.
First the Bishops built their palaces on the Strand of the river, then the road upon which the stables abutted came to rank as a street, and houses were built on the opposite side. The village of Charing grew into importance as a meeting place between Westminster and London and the newly settled district of St. James's.
The first general emigration westward of the laity was made in the reign of James I. Lord Herbert of Cherbury and many others went to Great Queen Street, which was built about 1629, and called after Henrietta Maria. In the latter part of Charles I.'s reign and during the Commonwealth Covent Garden became the fashionable quarter. At the Restoration St. James's started into favour, and has retained its position ever since.
Grosvenor Square came into existence early in the 18th century, and Belgravia dates from the end of George IV.'s reign. The first emigration of the London merchants westward was about the middle of the last century; and only those who had already secured large fortunes and possessed reputations beyond the shadow of a doubt ventured as far as Hatton Garden.
The importance of the noble river, which first called London into being and has ever been the main cause of its prosperity, was never more neatly explained than in that speech of a London alderman quoted by Stow. A courtier told the worthy alderman that Queen Mary in her displeasure against London had appointed to remove with the Parliament and term to Oxford. He answered, “Does she mean to divert the Thames from London or no?” The gentleman said “No”; and the alderman cried, "Then by God's grace we shall do well enough at London, whatsoever become of the term and Parliament ! ”
The Thames continued to be a main highway long after the fire, and within living memory it was common for persons to row for pleasure from London Bridge to Battersea or farther. The watermen were a privileged class, notorious for the bad language with which they saluted all they met. Johnson's reply to one of these watermen is the only recorded instance of a successful retort on such an occasion. Most of the respectable people gave up the contest in despair.
State prisoners to the Tower were taken by water, and that way went the Seven Bishops in the reign of James II. The body of Nelson was brought in state from Greenwich to Whitehall.
A very different scene was exhibited when the river was frozen over. This often occurred when in hard winters the blocks of ice were kept by the small arches of London Bridge from travelling farther. The Thames since new London Bridge was built has not been liable to this occurrence.
In spite of all the growth that took place, it was nearly a century after the fire before a second bridge was built. Westminster Bridge was opened in 1750, Blackfriars (intended to be called Pitt Bridge, after the great Earl of Chatham) in 1768, Vauxhall in 1816, Waterloo (originally called Strand Bridge) in 1817, Southwark in 1819. Then came a period of rebuilding, commencing with New London Bridge in 1831.
Westminster and Lambeth long remained at the western end of the town, for although there was much beyond, that was in the country.
Dr. Heberden recommended South Lambeth as a health resort on