Tuesday 4 September 1666

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

23 Annotations

First Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Mr. Howell..., whose goods, poor man, his trayes, and dishes, shovells, &c., were flung all along Tower-street in the kennels"

"kennels" or canailles, channels = drainage gutters (L&M Select Glossary)

Doug  •  Link

Living in San Diego, I can't help but remember my own experience one morning almost 2 years ago that was very similar to Sam's experience here....
Being awakened by phone & being told to evacuate; Sam being awakened by a servant & looking out at the fire...
Standing in the cul-de-sac in the pre-dawn darkness with the neighbors, wondering whether we really need to go; Sam walking around the city watching "the streets full of nothing but people and horses and carts loaden with goods"...
Packing the car with what we thought were the things we really needed and/or wanted; Sam taking the money, plate and "best things"...
Watching my neighbor's house burn down on TV with the same surreal sense of "this can't really be happening" that Sam must have felt when he saw the pigeons fall...
Of course, there are differences, chief among them that we had a trained firefighting force to deal with the equivalent of pulling down houses.

Michael Robinson  •  Link

" ... her house in Pye-corner being burned; ..."

Spoiler -- this is later the site of the famous terminal Fire marker; the fire running from Pudding Lane to Pie Corner made the 'causation' transparent.

"This boy is in memory put up for the late Fire of London occasioned by the sin of gluttony 1666"

CGS  •  Link

"...without any napkin or any thing, in a sad manner,..."
Oh! my ! fingers came first! nutin' to get rid of drips and stop that ugly fatty blob on 'me' best .....

jeannine  •  Link

What surprises me is that Sam has not mentioned anything about the smell of the fire. When our house caught on fire I smelled it long before anyone could even locate it (it was in a wall-plumber had started it). By the time it was put out (4 fire trucks and a snaked camera through the house) the worst part was the damage done by the smoke, yet Sam hasn't really dwelled on that. Not sure if the wind was blowing the smoke away from his home or if he was more interested in the damage from the actual burning. Also, wonder if they would have been concerned about smoke inhalation in those days? I can no imagine the extent of the clean up as getting rid of the smoke smell would be next to impossible without some of the clean up crews that we have today.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"Also, wonder if they would have been concerned about smoke inhalation in those days?"

Indeed, given Fumifugium, or, The inconveniencie of the aer and smoak of London dissipated together with some remedies humbly proposed by J.E. esq. to His Sacred Majestie, and to the Parliament now assembled is a pamphlet published in London, 1661, by John Evelyn. It is one of the earliest known works on air pollution.


Larry Bunce  •  Link

...and the whole heaven on fire. I just today had the thought that Pepys might have been remembered as one of the great authors of his time if he had made his living by writing. By the time Sam wrote these entries down, he had been through the whole experience of the fire, yet he captured his boy-ruunning-after-a-fire-truck excitement on the entry for the 2nd, and then the realization of the extent of the tragedy, the backbreaking work, and growing fear of these last two days. Countless novels and films alternate grand overviews of the times with details of domestic life to give an overwhelming picture of an era. Is John Evelyn's diary the Salieri to Sam Pepys' Mozart?

Ruben  •  Link

from Pepys letter to Coventry:
"SIR, The fire is now very neere us..., and we little hope of our escape but by this remedy...Sir W. Pen and myself have so far concluded ...SIR J. MINNES AND SIR W. BATTEN HAVING LEFT US...

Pedro  •  Link

King Charles II by Antonia Frazer (continued)

“On Tuesday the blaze spread hideously to engulf Blackfriars and the entire parish of St. Bride’s. Soon the fire rushed down Ludgate Hill, and worried for Whitehall, Charles had the buildings only recently erected by Denham at Scotland Yard unroofed and defaced so that the fire should not get a hold.

Very early on Tuesday the King and the Duke arrived in the City on horseback and stayed there all day, riding from place to place, at times directing their Guards to fight the fire, and at times, accompanied by a small escort, going to the very limits of the blaze, distributing water…Aware throughout of the vital need to demolish, if it was in any way to be held in check, the King moved about the City with a pouch containing one hundred golden guineas slung over his shoulder. These were to be handed out to the workmen at their destructive task pour encourager.

By the end of the day the King’s clothes were soaking, his face black, his whole person muddy and dirty. But there were many testimonials to his bravery and resolution as he stood up to his ankles in water, joining in the work with a will, wielding a bucket and spade with the rest, and encouraging the courtiers to do likewise. At Cripplgate, for example, he was known to have taken part in the extinction of the fire, as if he had been a “poor labourer”; a foreigner living in London heard that the King had spent over thirty hours on horseback. He had shown “singular care and pains” for the welfare of his people, and much real popularity was gained, as a result.”

mary k mcintyre  •  Link

God Save the King!

mary k mcintyre  •  Link

Like many other charismatic fellas, he is at his best in an emergency. It's during the day-to-day that the eye (and hand) wanders...

Lawrence  •  Link

Up by break of day to get away the remainder of my things; which I did by a lighter at the Iron gate
Curious to what this Iron gate is used for, can anyone enlighten me?

Mary  •  Link

Irongate and Irongate Stairs.

L&M Companion makes all clear. This gate guarded the access from the river to the south-eastern end of Tower Wharf (and thus to the Tower itself). It was cited at the downstream end of the Crown's property.

Irongate Stairs were the landing stairs for the foot of Little Tower Hill.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Charles and Jamie's finest hour...Ah, well...

"Jamie...I feel a new spirit in me. Away with this old indolence and cynicism, I shall take hold, revive my scientific interests, end this foolish war, find a new partnership in governance with Parliament..."

Pretty disheveled young woman passes...


"...or perhaps not..."

Lawrence  •  Link

Many thanks Mary and Terry!

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Great Fire of London 1666'. The City is depicted on September 4th, the third day of the fire. [an oil painting on board by Rita Greer, history painter, 2008 ] Such terrifying destruction is on a par with the firestorms after World War II bombings. The narrow streets, timber-framed, thatched houses would later be replaced by brick, stone and tiled buildings to prevent such a tragedy happening again. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki…

Paul Chapin  •  Link

The drawing Terry gave us the link to is impressive, but the legend says it was drawn some seven years after the fire, so one wonders just how accurate a depiction it is.

Bryan M  •  Link

"one wonders just how accurate a depiction it is."

According to Wikipedia "The first stone of the [new] cathedral was laid in 1677 by Thomas Strong, Wren's master stonemason", so it was probably accurate.


Second Reading

StanB  •  Link

Nefarious business means
What struck me throughout this horrendous time were there any scams attempted post-fire I refer in particular to Tally Sticks I realise that with Split Tallies this would have been difficult but not impossible ie: the Stock and Foil recipients could claim they were lost in the fire or notches could have been added if it was known the matching Tally had been consumed, Are there any records of such deceit, Also were there any reports of looting?

A fantastic week of entries I'm still not convinced that the reported low loss of life was/is accurate

john  •  Link

"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."

Important papers, wine, and cheese -- no doubt hoping for better days.

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