December 28, 2016

The Great Fire of London

I’m very interested in the history of places I visit and the Great Fire of 1666 was a major turning point in the story of London. I toured the Museum of London’s Fire! Fire! exhibition which commemorates the 350th anniversary of this catastrophic event. Later I visited a notable victim of the inferno and Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest achievement, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Fire! Fire! Exhibit at the  Museum of London

The Museum of London traces the history of the city from its prehistoric origins to modern times and admission is free. I couldn’t take in all of the permanent exhibits so I focused on The City Gallery with the Lord Mayor’s Coach; the People’s City Gallery with a recreation of a Victorian street; and the World City Gallery with its displays on postwar culture.

The Lord Mayor's Coach

Victorian Street

Victorian Penny-Farthing Bicycle

The Beatles in the World City Gallery

The Fire! Fire! exhibition explores the devastating inferno that broke out in a bakery on Pudding Lane and destroyed a quarter of the medieval city of London. The displays include a depiction of the daily spread of flames across the city, a seventeenth century fire engine, and a leather water bucket. The exhibition continues until April 17, 2017.

Day 3 of the Great Fire of London

Fire Engine (1678)

Leather Water Bucket

After the fire Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Latin inscription on his gravestone in the cathedral translates as: ‘If you seek his memorial, look about you.’ This great church survived the Blitz and went on to host Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral; Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding; and Queen Elizabeth’s ninetieth birthday celebration. We arrived too late for a tour of the cathedral but the five o’clock evensong service was the perfect way to experience this historic building.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Statue of Queen Anne

The Dome of St. Paul's Cathedral

Photography isn’t allowed in St. Paul’s but we got a unique view of Wren’s dome (which was modelled after the Pantheon in Rome) from the roof terrace of One New Change Mall.

One New Change Mall Elevator

View from the Elevator

View of St. Paul's Cathedral from One New Change Mall Terrace

Terrace Restaurant

One of the few buildings to survive the Great Fire is Prince Henry’s Room at 17 Fleet Street.

Prince Henry's Room, 17 Fleet Street

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in a narrow alleyway off Fleet Street wasn’t so lucky but it was rebuilt. The pub lays claim to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens among its regular patrons.

Fleet Street and View of St. Paul's

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub Entrance

Ye Olde Cock Tavern has the narrowest frontage of all London pubs. This public house was also frequented by Charles Dickens as well as diarist Samuel Pepys.

Ye Olde Cock Tavern, 22 Fleet Street

In the midst of all these historic pubs we had dinner at The Old Bank of England, a beautifully renovated bank building on the site between Sweeney Todd’s notorious barber shop and Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop. I had fish and chips (not a meat pie) and a free drink on the house.

The Old Bank of England Pub, 194 Fleet Street

In my next post we’ll return to modern times and go shopping at some of London’s world-class stores plus visit an exhibition on one of my favourite bands, The Rolling Stones.

My Tip for the Day:
Attending services like evensong allows you to enter churches after regular tour hours – and admission is free.

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