On the night of September 2nd, 1666, a small fire was sparked on Pudding Lane by a man named Thomas Farriner. His maid had forgotten to put out the ovens the night before, and as a result the ovens caused sparks in his wooden house.
Because the majority of the buildings surrounding the house were made of timber, not to mention that the city was experiencing strong winds at the time, it didn't take long for the fire to spread at an alarming rate.
Within several hours the fire had spread both north and west, and destroyed Gracechurch Street, Lombard Street, the Royal Exchange, both the Newgate and Ludgate prisons, and nearly every building along Fleet Street towards Chancery Lane. Luckily the fire didn’t spread to Southwark, but a third of London Bridge was destroyed.
It is said that The Great Fire of London burned down approximately 80 percent of the City of London’s medieval buildings, as well as 87 churches, 70,000 homes, and 44 halls. Not only that, because the heat from the fire was so strong, it also melted the original roof of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Within 12 hours, smoke could be seen all the way from Oxford, embers were falling on Kensington, and many Londoners were fleeing to Moorfields and Finsbury Hill. Miraculously there was not much loss of life, but about one sixth of London’s population were left homeless, and it took decades for London and its people to recuperate from the disaster of the fire.
The Monument To The Great Fire Of London was erected in commemoration of that night in order to give Londoners hope “that the city would soon rise again” after the fire. It was decided to place to Monument on the exact location of where St. Margaret’s Church burnt down (which was the first church to be destroyed by the fire), and to give the Monument a height of 61 metres to represent the exact distance between the column and where the fire first started on Pudding Lane.
The Monument was designed by Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren (who also designed St. Paul’s Cathedral), and was constructed between 1671 and 1677.
Monument to The Great Fire Of London Highlights
Although the Monument commemorates one of the tumultuous events in London's history, today it is a popular London attraction; (over 100,000 visitors climb to the top of the Monument each year to enjoy a panoramic view of the city).
Architecture lovers will appreciate its unique design, which is comprised of a fluted Doric column built of Portland stone. The column that stands at 160 feet in height (which makes it the tallest isolated stone column in the world), and is topped with a gilded urn from the Great Fire. Inside the Monument there is a narrow winding staircase consisting of 311 steps, as well as a mesh cage which was added in the mid-19th century to prevent people from jumping off the top.
At the base of the Monument you will see inscriptions in Latin which describe the actions of Charles II following the events of the fire, as well as how the fire was started and how much damage it caused.
Although originally a Latin inscription on the east side of the Monument stated that Roman Catholics were to blame for the fire, the words were chiselled out in 1830. There is also a sculpture located on the western side of the Monument’s base which features Charles II and his brother James II surrounded by liberty, architecture and science.
In recent years a 360-degree panoramic camera was installed at the top of the Monument which provides Londoners with a record of the daily weather, and is updated every minute, 24 hours a day.
- Because the Monument can get packed in the afternoon or during the holidays and summer months, it may be a good idea to arrive as early as possible if you want to climb up to the top.
- Try to schedule your visit so you can take some stunning photographs from the top at sunrise (during the winter) or sunset (during the summer).
- Because of the mesh cage that surrounds the top of the Monument, it may be difficult to take photos if your camera has a large or wide lens.
- If plan on visiting the Tower Bridge as well as the Monument, make sure you purchase a joint admission ticket to save some money.