Restoration London was built for a bonfire. Crowded, thatched wooden houses were crammed alongside tarpaper shanties. Many citizens stored gunpowder, and chandlers piled barrels of it along the waterfront. When fire broke out in a bakery on Pudding Lane, heat, high winds, and a long drought quickly combined to create a conflagration. The panicked Lord Mayor resisted both his firemen’s advice to create firebreaks through demolitions and the Duke of York’s offer of troops to fight the fire. The next day, the diarist Samuel Pepys records, the city was crowned by an ‘entire arch of flame… a horrid noise the flames made… the cracking of houses at their ruines’. The writer John Evelyn observed ‘the stones of Paules flew like granados’. After four days of destruction firemen and, belatedly, troops managed to stem the fire with massive firebreaks. Few deaths are recorded, but the teeming homeless camped in Moorfields, and angry mobs lynched ‘foreigners’ suspected of starting the fire.
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