Up by break of day to get away the remainder of my things; which I did by a lighter at the Iron gate and my hands so few, that it was the afternoon before we could get them all away. Sir W. Pen and I to Tower- streete, and there met the fire burning three or four doors beyond Mr. Howell’s, whose goods, poor man, his trayes, and dishes, shovells, &c., were flung all along Tower-street in the kennels, and people working therewith from one end to the other; the fire coming on in that narrow streete, on both sides, with infinite fury. Sir W. Batten not knowing how to remove his wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid it in there; and I took the opportunity of laying all the papers of my office that I could not otherwise dispose of. And in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig another, and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things. The Duke of Yorke was at the office this day, at Sir W. Pen’s; but I happened not to be within. This afternoon, sitting melancholy with Sir W. Pen in our garden, and thinking of the certain burning of this office, without extraordinary means, I did propose for the sending up of all our workmen from Woolwich and Deptford yards (none whereof yet appeared), and to write to Sir W. Coventry to have the Duke of Yorke’s permission to pull down houses, rather than lose this office, which would, much hinder, the King’s business. So Sir W. Pen he went down this night, in order to the sending them up to-morrow morning; and I wrote to Sir W. Coventry about the business, but received no answer.1 This night Mrs. Turner (who, poor woman, was removing her goods all this day, good goods into the garden, and knows not how to dispose of them), and her husband supped with my wife and I at night, in the office; upon a shoulder of mutton from the cook’s, without any napkin or any thing, in a sad manner, but were merry. Only now and then walking into the garden, and saw how horridly the sky looks, all on a fire in the night, was enough to put us out of our wits; and, indeed, it was extremely dreadful, for it looks just as if it was at us; and the whole heaven on fire. I after supper walked in the darke down to Tower- streete, and there saw it all on fire, at the Trinity House on that side, and the Dolphin Taverne on this side, which was very near us; and the fire with extraordinary vehemence. Now begins the practice of blowing up of houses in Tower-streete, those next the Tower, which at first did frighten people more than anything, but it stopped the fire where it was done, it bringing down the houses to the ground in the same places they stood, and then it was easy to quench what little fire was in it, though it kindled nothing almost. W. Hewer this day went to see how his mother did, and comes late home, telling us how he hath been forced to remove her to Islington, her house in Pye-corner being burned; so that the fire is got so far that way, and all the Old Bayly, and was running down to Fleete-streete; and Paul’s is burned, and all Cheapside. I wrote to my father this night, but the post-house being burned, the letter could not go.2
A copy of this letter, preserved among the Pepys MSS. in the author’s own handwriting, is subjoined:
SIR, The fire is now very neere us as well on Tower Streete as Fanchurch Street side, and we little hope of our escape but by this remedy, to ye want whereof we doe certainly owe ye loss of ye City namely, ye pulling down of houses, in ye way of ye fire. This way Sir W. Pen and myself have so far concluded upon ye practising, that he is gone to Woolwich and Deptford to supply himself with men and necessarys in order to the doeing thereof, in case at his returne our condition be not bettered and that he meets with his R. Hs. approbation, which I had thus undertaken to learn of you. Pray please to let me have this night (at whatever hour it is) what his R. Hs. directions are in this particular; Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten having left us, we cannot add, though we are well assured of their, as well as all ye neighbourhood’s concurrence.
Yr. obedient servnt. S. P.
Sir W. Coventry, Septr. 4, 1666.
- J. Hickes wrote to Williamson on September 3rd from the “Golden Lyon,” Red Cross Street Posthouse. Sir Philip [Frowde] and his lady fled from the [letter] office at midnight for: safety; stayed himself till 1 am. till his wife and childrens’ patience could stay, no longer, fearing lest they should be quite stopped up; the passage was so tedious they had much ado to get where they are. The Chester and Irish, mails have come-in; sends him his letters, knows not how to dispose of the business (“Calendar of State Papers,” 1666-67, p. 95). ↩