Thursday 6 September 1666

Up about five o’clock, and where met Mr. Gawden at the gate of the office (I intending to go out, as I used, every now and then to-day, to see how the fire is) to call our men to Bishop’s-gate, where no fire had yet been near, and there is now one broke out which did give great grounds to people, and to me too, to think that there is some kind of plot1 in this (on which many by this time have been taken, and, it hath been dangerous for any stranger to walk in the streets), but I went with the men, and we did put it out in a little time; so that that was well again. It was pretty to see how hard the women did work in the cannells, sweeping of water; but then they would scold for drink, and be as drunk as devils. I saw good butts of sugar broke open in the street, and people go and take handsfull out, and put into beer, and drink it. And now all being pretty well, I took boat, and over to Southwarke, and took boat on the other side the bridge, and so to Westminster, thinking to shift myself, being all in dirt from top to bottom; but could not there find any place to buy a shirt or pair of gloves, Westminster Hall being full of people’s goods, those in Westminster having removed all their goods, and the Exchequer money put into vessels to carry to Nonsuch; but to the Swan, and there was trimmed; and then to White Hall, but saw nobody; and so home. A sad sight to see how the River looks: no houses nor church near it, to the Temple, where it stopped. At home, did go with Sir W. Batten, and our neighbour, Knightly (who, with one more, was the only man of any fashion left in all the neighbourhood thereabouts, they all removing their goods and leaving their houses to the mercy of the fire), to Sir R. Ford’s, and there dined in an earthen platter — a fried breast of mutton; a great many of us, but very merry, and indeed as good a meal, though as ugly a one, as ever I had in my life. Thence down to Deptford, and there with great satisfaction landed all my goods at Sir G. Carteret’s safe, and nothing missed I could see, or hurt. This being done to my great content, I home, and to Sir W. Batten’s, and there with Sir R. Ford, Mr. Knightly, and one Withers, a professed lying rogue, supped well, and mighty merry, and our fears over. From them to the office, and there slept with the office full of labourers, who talked, and slept, and walked all night long there. But strange it was to see Cloathworkers’ Hall on fire these three days and nights in one body of flame, it being the cellar full of oyle.

6 Sep 2009, 10:02 p.m. - Terry Foreman

John Evelyn's Diary 6 September

6 Sep 2009, 10:18 p.m. - mary k mcintyre

One of Sam's great charms (like Cleopatra) is his infinite variety. In one entry we have drunken street women drinking sugared beer (oy!), Westminster piled with local residents' worldly goods, an aborted effort to buy a clean shirt, a haircut, and a dish of fried mutton (echh). Oh... and one's house overrun w/insomniac labourers.

6 Sep 2009, 10:24 p.m. - Australian Susan

It was only in the 19th century that the inscription on The Monument which blamed Catholics was removed. The myth lingered. "..and there dined in an earthen platter — a fried breast of mutton; a great many of us, but very merry, and indeed as good a meal, though as ugly a one, as ever I had in my life. .." Sam describes a universal feeling I can relate to: the best meal I ever had in my life was the fry-up lunch (I had had no breakfast, being too anxious) my family ate at a greasy spoon near the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital after we had had the reassurance that there was nothing wrong with my young son's heart. To know you have got through something safely and to share companionship and food brings a sense of relief and goodwill. Sam can now concentrate on the little things like getting shaved and trying to find a clean shirt, knowing the threat to his household is over.

6 Sep 2009, 10:55 p.m. - Michael Robinson

“The destruction of London by fire is reported to be a hellish contrivance of the French, Hollanders, and fanatic party” Spoiler For a text of the relevant inscription on the Monument, as now: Whatever may have been supposed at the time, it appears the 'Papist' text to the inscription was an addition of 1680/81, at the time of the 'Popish Plot' hysteria, and its addition and removal subject to the prevailing sympathies of the day: "Soon after the accession of James II the additional inscriptions were obliterated and removed. But the order was reversed on the accession of William ill,"

7 Sep 2009, 12:16 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"the women did work in the cannells [street drainage-gutters], sweeping of water; but then they would scold for drink" scold

7 Sep 2009, 2:12 a.m. - Robert Gertz

"...Mr. Knightly, and one Withers, a professed lying rogue..." Ok, so Sam was reincarnated as Jane Austin... Though I suppose Withers actually sounds more Shakespearian. Profession: "lying rogue". How did it get established his name was Robert (link)? Wish Sam had given us his story directly...I'm assuming he was a low-level Navy Office fellow they found poking about (looting?)and set him to work helping them.

7 Sep 2009, 2:44 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"How did it get established his name was Robert (link)?" Sorry about that. RG. 'Twas not any "Robert" Pepys calls "a a professed lying rogue”: L&M think it was "probably" Robert Withers, a shipbuilder, of Bolton-le-Sands, Lancs., as you assume, "a low-level Navy...."

7 Sep 2009, 11:20 a.m. - Ruben

...meantime on the other side of the channel... the only hot thing was Louis XIV sexual life. Those who care for some details but will not bother to read Voltaire, see: I think Louis was the model for Charles, but Louis had more power and money.

7 Sep 2009, 5:57 p.m. - Ruben

"the Exchequer money put into vessels to carry to Nonsuch" King Henry used to make the trip to nearby Hampton Court by a fast rowing boat. But Nonsuch was not on the river side. Today I would take may boat or whatever to Kingston Town End Pier a little before Hampton Court and then by truck or similar, with the help of my GPS, through A307, Brighton Road, etc., some 7 Km away. How did the Exchequer money travel till Nonsuch? Suggestions?

7 Sep 2009, 10:36 p.m. - Australian Susan

Exchequer Money On pack ponies from Kingston, with a substantial armed guard?

8 Sep 2009, 12:31 a.m. - Robert Gertz

No need for apologies, I was impressed L&M would have the first name of such a minor character like Withers. Still, it's a shame we don't get more about him and his rogue's profession. I feel we lost a good story...

8 Sep 2009, 12:38 a.m. - Robert Gertz

“the Exchequer money put into vessels to carry to Nonsuch” Thankfully oftentimes the faith and loyalty of people is as amazing as the perfidity.

8 Sep 2009, 4:29 p.m. - CGS

withers - the highest point of the shoulder seen best with horse standing square and head slightly lowered. The tops of the two shoulder blades and the space between them define the withers.

10 Sep 2009, 6:43 p.m. - Nix

“The destruction of London by fire is reported to be a hellish contrivance of the French, Hollanders, and fanatic party” -- Round up the usual suspects.

10 Sep 2009, 9:42 p.m. - Australian Susan

Don't forget those untrustworthy Papists!

28 Oct 2009, 4:12 a.m. - Terry Foreman

Letter Calendared in the Carte Collection Arlington to Ormond Written from: Whitehall Date: 7 September 1666 Shelfmark: MS. Carte 46, fol(s). 363-364 Document type: Holograph ... Though many parts of the government, as well as [an] infinite number of "particulars will suffer" [by the late fire], "yet we are reasonably secure the quiet of the kingdom will not be discomposed by it; not being able, by any of the circumstances, to trace out, or to suspect, that it was either contrived or fomented by any of the discontented party". Adds that the fear of such a possibility induced the King to send for the Lord General [Duke of Albemarle], ... and this (eventually) delivered his Majesty "from another pain he was in, [in] observing his sea-service in some disorder, by having it commanded by two heads, that were in danger of disagreeing" ...

5 Dec 2015, 7:10 p.m. - Terry Foreman

The Monument to the Great Fire of London Three sides of the base carry inscriptions in Latin. The one on the south side describes actions taken by King Charles II following the fire. The one on the east describes how the Monument was started and brought to perfection, and under which mayors. Inscriptions on the north side describe how the fire started, how much damage it caused, and how it was eventually extinguished. In 1681, the words "but Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched" were added to the end of the inscription. Text on the east side generally blames Roman Catholics for the fire, and this prompted Alexander Pope (himself a Catholic) to say of the area that it is: Where London's column, pointing at the skies, Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies. – Moral Essays, Epistle iii. line 339 (1733–1734). The words were chiselled out in 1830.

18 Mar 2019, 3:43 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"the Exchequer money put into vessels to carry to Nonsuch" On 4 September the Exchequer of the Receipt and the Tally Office had been ordered to remove to Nonsuch House, near Epsom, their temporary home during the Plague: CSPD 1666-7, p. 99.

18 Mar 2019, 3:48 a.m. - Terry Foreman

"Thence down to Deptford, and there with great satisfaction landed all my goods at Sir G. Carteret’s safe" L&M: He had an official residence there, as Navy Treasurer.

6 Sep 2019, 5:31 a.m. - San Diego Sarah

"... and one's house overrun w/insomniac labourers." No, he says he slept in the office. I presume they had a gang of people staying there to protect the records should the wind shift and blow the fire towards them again. They couldn't possibly have buried everything in the garden; maybe just the state secrets? "From them to the office, and there slept with the office full of labourers, who talked, and slept, and walked all night long there."

7 Sep 2019, 5:53 p.m. - john

Calamities tend to mix the various classes of folk. Methinks the labourers were sleepness due to the novelty of being housed in the Navy Office, the insides of which they would probably never have seen otherwise. (I think that the women put sugar in their beer for energy as well as sweetening probably very bitter beer.)

7 Sep 2019, 6:30 p.m. - San Diego Sarah

"... labourers were sleepness due to the novelty of being housed in the Navy Office, the insides of which they would probably never have seen otherwise." Or adrenaline. Having lived through two catastrophic California fires, sleep is an elusive thing. The wind can turn and you go from being safe to having minutes to evacuate. Embers the size of bricks can fly two miles in front of the fire lines. One of those in your roof, and you have minutes to get out. I tried to stay awake all night and my husband took the day shift. I am surprised Pepys undressed down to his skivvies, considering how much help he needed to get dressed. During WWII guys in the Navy slept in their uniforms when at sea because there was no time to dress if the alarms went off. (OK -- I suspect they took their jackets and ties off.)

2 Sep 2021, 6:49 p.m. - San Diego Sarah

On September 6 the Privy Council met again and turned its attention to the people affected, ordering that the charitable hospitals and companies destroyed by ‘the suddain & lamentable accident of this violent Fire’ should ensure that their almspeople and pensioners ‘now exposed to the saddest Condicion immaginable & in danger to perish with hunger and Cold’ were provided with food and housing. Next the Council addressed the water engines, buckets and fire hooks owned by the City which had been abandoned everywhere. They ordered them collected and repaired, and the roadway over London Bridge cleared to allow for the delivery of provisions to the City. The fear the fire could reignite and threaten the rest of London and Westminster was caused by the areas which were still smouldering. The Deputy Lieutenants and JPs were therefore ordered to supply 200 able-bodied men, together with tools and food, at Temple Bar at 17:00, ready to prevent ‘the further fury of the rageing Element’. The Victualler of the Navy was required to provide biscuits, butter and cheese to the men working on extinguishing the fire. The order includes details of the areas which were still at risk, all west of the City – from Temple Bar via the Rolls Garden to Holborn Bridge. Next the Privy Council addressed a major source of royal revenue: the Customs House had been burned down, so an alternative venue for the payment of this tax had to be identified. (It took 20 days for the Council to be as concerned about the law courts, perhaps because the Michaelmas law term starts in October.) The Lord Mayor was told to focus on relieving the poor and on removing them ‘out of the open Fields into such Covert & shelter, as the Suburbs & the remayning part of the City will afford, so to prevent their utter ruine & destruction’. A common theme in these orders is that existing systems of poor relief were to be used; there was no contribution from the king’s revenue. Churchwardens and parish officers were asked to care for those lying in the fields, particularly women about to give birth and the sick, using vacant houses, then inns and places of public entertainment and, once those were full, resorting to private homes. Those able to pay for their lodgings were required to do so. The Privy Council then addressed the risk posed by a subsequent fire. Those people living next to the Tower of London, who were probably breathing a sigh of relief at having avoided destruction by fire, must have been dismayed to learn of the Council order to demolish their homes in order to protect the Tower. Affected inhabitants successfully petitioned for time to remove their houses and goods. For more information, see

5 Apr 2022, 8:55 p.m. - Melly

There is a great podcast called Travels Through Time, available through the usual podcast routes, which offers a fabulous episode, number 33, dated 5th April 2022 with author Margaret Willes, and titled ‘In the Shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral (1666)’. In this, Margaret leads us from The Old St Paul’s, to the new, via the plague and the Great Fire, with wonderful facts which add even more flesh to the bones of Pepy’s and Evelyn’s entries from this time, as well as information about The Royal Society. 48 minutes well spent, I’d say!