Immagini della pagina

was sudden; for in a small space of time the city was seen most flourishing, and reduced to nothing. Three days after, when this fatal fire had baffled all human counsels and endeavours, in the opinion of all, it stopped, as it were, by a command from so and was on every side extinguished. But papistical malice, which perpetrated such mischiefs, is not yet restrained.” A line, beginning on the west side, contains the following words; on James II. coming to the crown, they were erased, but restored under William III. :— “This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of the most dreadful burning of this protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the popish faction, in the beginning of Se tember, in the year of our Lord,1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the protestant religion, and old English liberty, and introducing popery and slavery.” The south side is thus inscribed:— “Charles the Second, son of Charles the Martyr, king of Great Britain, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, a most gracious prince, commiserating the deplorable state of things, whilst the ruins were yet smoaking, provided for the comfort of his citizens, and the ornament of his city; remitted their taxes, and referred the petitions of the magistrates and inhabitants to the parliament; who immediately passed an act, that public works should be restored to greater beauty, with public money, to be raised by an imposition on coals; that churches, and the cathedral of St. Paul's, should be rebuilt from their foundations, with all magnificence; that the bridges, gates, and prisons should be new made, the sewers cleansed, the streets made straight and regular, such as were steep levelled, and those too narrow made wider, markets and shambles removed to separate places. They also enacted, that every house should be built with party walls, and all in front raised of an equal height, and those walls all of square stone or brick; and that no man should delay building beyond the space of seven years.” An estimate of the value of property consumed by the fire amounted to ten millions six hundred and eighty-nine thousand pounds, wherein was included the value of St. Paul's cathedral, which was set down at nearly one-fifth of the total. The occasion of the conflagration

was the subject of parliamentary investigation. It is imputed to the Roman Catholics, but a dispassionate consideration of all the circumstances by impartial men tends to acquit them of the crime, and most persons at this time believe that—

“London's column pointing to the skies, Like a tall bully, rears its head and lies.”

Thomas Vincent, a non-conformist minister, who was ejected from the living of St. Mary Magdalen, in Milk-street, and during the great plague remained in the city, and preached regularly to the great comfort of the inhabitants under the affliction of the raging pestilence, was an eyewitness of the subsequent conflagration. He wrote “God's terrible Judgments in the City by Plague and Fire,” and has left a circumstantial relation in that work of the progress made by the flames, and their id: on the people.

Pincent's Narrative.

It was the 2d of September, 1666, that the anger of the Lord was kindled against London, and the fire began: it began in a baker's house, in Pudding-lane, by Fishstreet-hill; and now the Lord is making London like a fiery oven in the time of his anger, and in his wrath doth devour and swallow up our habitations. It was in the depth and dead of the night, when most doors and fences were locked up in the city, that the fire doth break forth and appear abroad; and, like a mighty giant refreshed with wine, doth awake and arm itself, quickly gathers strength, when it had made havoc of some houses; rusheth down the hill towards the bridge; crosseth Thames-street, invadeth Magnus church, at the bridge foot; and, though that church were so great, yet it was not a sufficient barricado against this conqueror; but, having scaled and taken this fort, it shooteth flames with so much the greater advantage into all places round about; and a great building of houses upon the bridge is quickly thrown to the ground: then the conqueror, being stayed in his course at the bridge, marcheth back to the city again, and runs along with great noise and violence through Thames-street, westward; where, having such combustible matter in its teeth, and such a fierce wind upon its back, it prevails with little resistance, unto the astonishment of the beholders.

Fire! fire! fire 1 doth resound the streets; many citizens start out of their sleep, look out of their windows; some dress themselves and run to the place. The lord mayor of the city comes with his officers; a confusion there is; counsel is taken away; and London, so famous for wisdom and dexterity, can now find neither brains nor hands to prevent its ruin. The hand of God was in it; the decree was come forth; London must now fall, and who could prevent it? No wonder, when so many pillars are removed, if the building tumbles; the prayers, tears, and faith, which sometimes London hath had, might have quenched the violence of the fire; might have opened heaven for rain, and driven back the wind: but now the fire gets mastery, and burns dreadfully. That night most of the Londoners had taken their last sleep in their houses; they little thought it would be so when they went into their beds; they did not in the least suspect, when the doors of their ears were unlocked, and the casements of their eyes were opened in the morning, to hear of such an enemy invading the city, and that they should see him, with such fury, enter the doors of their houses, break into every room, and look out of their casements with such a threatening countenance. That which made the ruin the more dismal, was, that it was begun on the Lord's-day morning : never was there the like sabbath in London; some churches were in flames that day; and God seems to come down, and to preach himself in them, as he did in Mount Sinai, when the mount burned with fire; such warm E.; those churches never had ; such ightning dreadful sermons never were before delivered in London. In other churches ministers were preaching their farewell sermons, and people were hearing with quaking and astonishment: instead of a holy rest which christians have taken on this day, there is a tumultuous hurrying about the streets towards the place that burned, and more tumultuous hurrying upon the spirits of those that sat still, and had only . notice of the ear of the quick and strange spreading of the fire. Now the train-bands are up in arms watching at every quarter for outlandishmen, because of the general fear and, ‘ealousies, and rumours, that fire-balls were thrown into houses by several of them to help on and provoke the too

furious flames. Now goods are hastily removed from the lower parts of the city; and the body of the people begin to retire, and draw upwards, as the people did from the tabernacles of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth did cleave asunder and swallow them up: or rather as Lot drew out from his house in Sodom before it was consumed by fire from heaven. Yet some hopes were retained on the Lord’s-day that the fire would be extinguished, especially by them who lived in the remote parts; they could scarcely imagine that the fire a mile off should be able to reach their houses. - But the evening draws on, and now the fire is more visible and dreadful : instead of the black curtains of the night, which used to be spread over the city, now the curtains are yellow; the smoke that arose from the burning parts seemed like so much flame in the night, which being blown upon the other parts by the wind, the whole city, at some distance, seemed to be on fire. Now hopes begin to sink, and a general consternation seizeth upon the spirits of people; little sleep is taken in London this night; the amazement which the eye and ear doth effect upon the spirit, doth either dry up or drive away the vapour which used to bind up the senses. Some are at work to quench the fire with water; others endeavour to stop its course, by pulling down of houses; but all to no purpose : if it be a little allayed, or beaten down, or put to a stand in some places, it is but a very little while; it quickly recruits, and recovers its force; it leaps and mounts, and makes the more furious onset, drives back its opposers, snatcheth their weapons out of their hands, seizeth upon the water-houses and engines, burns them, spoils them, and makes them unfit for service. On the Lord's-day night the fire had run as far as Garlick-hithe, in Thamesstreet, and had crept up into Cannonstreet, and levelled it with the ground; and still is making forward by the waterside, and upward to the brow of the hill, on which the city was built. On Monday, (the 3d) Gracechurchstreet is all in flames, with Lombard-street, on the left hand, and part of Fenchurch street, on the right, the fire working (though not so fast) against the wind that way: before it were pleasant and stately houses, behind it ruinous and desolate heaps. The burning then was in fashion

of a bow, a dreadful bow it was, such as mine eyes never before had seen; a bow which had God's arrow in it, with a flaming point: it was a shining bow; not like that in the cloud, which brings water with it; and withal signified God's covenant not to destroy the world any more with water: but it was a bow which had fire in it, which signified God's anger, and his intention to destroy London with fire. Now the flames break in upon Cornhill, that large and spacious street, and quickly cross the way by the train of wood that lay in the streets untaken away, which had been pulled down from houses to prevent its spreading: and so they lick the whole street as they go: they mount up to the top of the highest houses; they descend down to the bottom of the lowest vaults and cellars; and march along on both sides of the way, with such a roaring noise, as never was heard in the city of London; no stately building so great as to resist their fury: the .. Exchange itself, the glory of the merchants, is now invaded with much violence; and when once the fire was entered, how quickly did it run round the galleries, filling them with flames; then came down stairs, compasseth the walks, giving forth flaming volleys, and filleth the court with sheets of fire; by-and-by down fall all the kings upon their faces, and the greatest part of the stone-building after them, (the founder's statue only remaining,) with such a noise as was dreadful and astonishing. Then, then the city did shake indeed; and the inhabitants did tremble, and flew away in great amazement from their houses, lest the flames should devour them; rattle, rattle, rattle, was the noise which the fire struck upon the ear round about, as if there had been a thousand iron chariots beating upon the stones: and if you opened your eye to the opening of the streets, where the fire was come, you might see, in some places, whole streets at once in flames, that issued forth as if they had been so many great forges, from the opposite windows, which folding together, were united into one great flame throughout the whole street; and then you might see the houses tumble, tumble, tumble, from one end of the street to the other, with a great crash, leaving the foundations open to the view of the heavens. Now fearfulness and terror doth surprise the citizens of London; confusion

and astonishment doth fall upon them at this unheard-of, unthought-of, judgment. It would have grieved the heart of an unconcerned person to see the rueful looks, the pale cheeks, the tears trickling down from the eyes, (where the greatness of sorrow and amazement could give leave for such a vent,) the smiting of the breast, the wringing of the hands; to hear the sighs and groans, the doleful and weeping speeches of the distressed citizens, when they were bringing forth their wives, (some from their child-bed,) and their little ones (some from their sickbed,) out of their houses, and sending them into the country, or somewhere into the fields with their goods. Now the hopes of London are gone, their heart is sunk; now there is a general remove in the city, and that in a greater hurry than before the plague, their goods being in greater danger by the fire than their persons were by the sickness. Scarcely are some returned, but they must remove again, and, not as before, now without any more hopes of ever returning and living in those houses any more. Now carts, and drays, and coaches, and horses, as many as could have entrance into the city, were loaden, and any money is given for help; 5l. 10l. 201. 30l. for a cart, to bear forth into the fields some choice things, which were ready to be consumed; and some of the carmen had the conscience to accept of the highest price, which the citizens did then offer in their extremity; I am mistaken if such money do not burn worse than the fire out of which it was raked. Now casks of wine, and oil, and other commodities, are tumbled along, and the owners shove as much of their goods as they can towards the gate: every one now becomes a porter to himself, and scarcely a back either of man or woman, that hath strength, but had a burden on it in the streets: it was very sad to see such throngs of poor citizens coming in and going forth from the unburnt parts, heavy laden with some pieces of their goods, but more heavy laden with weighty grief and sorry of heart, so that it is wonderful they did not quite sink under these burdens. Monday night was a dreadful night: when the wings of the night had shadowed the light of the heavenly bodies, there was no darkness of night in London, for the fire shines now round about with a fearful blaze, which yieldeth such light in the streets, as it had been the sun at noonday. Now the fire having wrought backward strangely against the wind, to Billingsgate, &c., along Thames-street, eastward, runs up the hill to Tower-street, and having marched on from Gracechurchstreet, making further progress in Fenchurch-street, and having spread its wing beyond Queenhithe, in Thames-street, westward, mounts up from the water-side, through Dowgate, and Old Fish-street, into Watling-street: but the great fury of the fire was in the broader streets; in the midst of the night it was come down Cornhill, and laid it in the dust, and runs along by the Stocks, and there meets with another fire, which came down Threadneedle-street; a little further with another, which came up from Wallbrook; a little further with another, which comes up from Bucklersbury; and, all these four, joining together, break into one great flame at the corner of Cheapside, with such a dazzling light, and burning heat, and roaring noise, by the fall of so many houses together, that was very amazing; and though it were something stopt in its swift course at Mercers'-chapel, yet with great force in a while it conquers the place, and burns through it; and then, with great rage, proceedeth forward in Cheapside. On Tuesday (the 4th) was the fire burning up the very bowels of London; Cheapside is all in a light, (fire in a few hours time,) many fires meeting there, as in the centre; from Soper-lane, Bow-lane, Breadstreet, Friday-street, and Old Change, the fire comes up almost together, and breaks furiously into the Broad-street, and most of that side of the way was together in flames, a dreadful spectacle; and then, K. by the fire which came down by ercers'-chapel, partly by the fall of the houses cross the way, the other side is quickly kindled, and doth not stand long after it. Now the fire gets into Blackfriars, and so continues its course by the water, and makes up towards Paul's church, on that side, and Cheapside fire besets the great building on this side, and the church, though all of stone outward, though naked of houses about it, and though so high above all buildings in the city, yet, within a while, doth yield to the violent assaults of the conquering flames, and strangely takes fire at the top: now the lead melts and runs down, as if it had been snow before the sun; and the great beams and massy stones with a great noise fall on the pavement, and

break through into Faith church underneath; now great flakes of stone scale and peel off strangely from the side of the walls; the conqueror having got this high fort, darts its flames round about. Now Paternoster-row, Newgate-market, the Old Bailey, and Ludgate-hill, have submitted themselves to the devouring fire, which with wonderful speed rusheth down the hill into Fleet-street. Now Cheapside fire marcheth along Ironmonger-lane, Old Jewry, Lawrence-lane, Milk-street, Woodstreet, Gutter-lane, Foster-lane. Now it runs along Lothbury, Cateaton-street, &c. From Newgate-market, it assaults Christchurch, and conquers that great building, and burns through Martin's-lane towards Aldersgate, and all about so furiously, as if it would not leave a house standing upon the ground. Now horrible flakes of fire mount u the sky, and the yellow smoke of Londonascendeth up towards heaven, like the smoke of a great furnace; a smoke so great, as darkened the sun at noonday: (if at any time the sun peeped forth, it looked red like blood:) the cloud of smoke was so great, that travellers did ride at noonday, some miles together, in the shadow thereof, though there were no other cloud beside to be seen in the sky. And if Monday night was dreadful, Tuesday night was more dreadful, when far the greatest part of the city was consumed: many thousands who on Saturday had houses convenient in the city, both for themselves, and to entertain others, now have not where to lay their head; and the fields are the only receptacle which they can find for themselves and their goods; most of the late inhabitants of London lie all night in the open air, with no other canopy over them but that of the heavens: the fire is still making towards them, and threateneth the suburbs; it was amazing to see how it had spread itself several times in compass; and, amongst other things that night, the sight of Guildhall was a fearful spectacle, which stood the whole body of it together in view, for several hours together, after the fire had taken it, without flames, (I suppose because the timber was such solid oak,) in a bright shining coal, as if it had been a palace of gold, or a great building of burnished brass. On Wednesday morning,(the 5th) when eople expected that the suburbs would |. |. as well as the city, and with speed were preparing their flight, as well

as they could, with their luggage into the countries, and neighbouring villages, then the Lord hath pity on poor London; his bowels began to relent; his heart is turned within him, and he stays his rough wind in the day of the east wind; his fury begins to be allayed; he hath a remnant of people in London, and there shall a remnant of houses escape: the wind now is husht; the commission of the fire is withdrawing, and it burns so gently, even where it meets with no opposition, that it was not hard to be quenched, in many places, with a few hands; now the citizens begin to gather a little heart, and encouragement in their endeavours to uench the fire. A check it had at adenhall by that great building; a stop it had in Bishopsgate-street, Fenchurchstreet, Lime-street, Mark-lane, and towards the Tower; one means, under God, was the blowing up of houses with gunowder. Now it is stayed in Lothbury, o: Coleman-street; towards the gates it burnt, but not with any great violence; at the Temple also it is stayed, and in Holborn, where it had got no great footing; and when once the fire was got under, it was kept under, and on Thursday the flames were extinguished. But on Wednesday night, when the |. late of London, now of the fields, oped to get a little rest on the ground, where they had spread their beds, a more dreadful : falls upon them than they had before, through a rumoul that the French were coming armed against them to cut their throats, and spoil them of what they had saved out of the fire: they were now naked and weak, and in ill condition to defend themselves, and the hearts, especially of the females, do quake and tremble, and are ready to die within them; yet many citizens, having lost their houses, and almost all that they had, are fired with rage and fury: and they begin to stir up themselves Ée lions, or like bears bereaved of their whelps, and now “Arm 1 Arm "" doth resound the fields and suburbs with a dreadful voice. We may guess at the distress and perplexity of the people this night, which was something alleviated when the falseness of the alarm was perceived. The ruins of the city were 396 acres; [viz. 333 acres within the walls, and 63 in the liberties of the city,) of the six and twenty wards, it utterly destroyed fifteen, and left eight others shattered, and half burnt; and it consumed 400

streets, 13,200 dwelling-houses, eighty nine churches, [besides chapels,) four o the city gates, Guildhall, many public structures, hospitals, schools, libraries, and a vast number of stately edifices.

The preceding relation by Thomas Vincent, with the philosophic Evelyn's, will acquaint the reader with as much as can here be told of the most direful visitations the metropolis ever suffered. Evelyn's account is in his “Diary,” or “Memoirs” of himself, a manuscript which is known to have been preserved from probable destruction by Mr. Upcott.

John Evelyn's Narrative.

Sept. 2, 1666. This fatal night, about ten, began that deplorable fire near Fishstreete in London.

Sept. 3. The fire continuing, after dinner I took coach with my wife and sonn, and went to the Bankside in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole citty in dreadful flame neare the water side; all the houses from the bridge, all Thames-street, and up wards towards Cheapeside downe to thi Three Cranes, were now consum'd.

The fire having continu'd all this night (if I may call that night which was as light as day for ten miles round about, after a dreadful manner,) when conspiring with a fierce eastern wind in a very drie season: I went on foote to the same place, and saw the whole south part of the citty burning from Cheapeside to the Thames, and all along Cornehill, (for it kindl'd back against the wind as well as forward,)Tower-streete, Fenchurch-streete, Gracious-streete, and so along to Bainard's-castle, and was now taking hold of St. Paule's church, to which the scaffolds contributed exceedingly. . The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonish'd, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirr'd to quench it, so that there was nothing heard or seene but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their goods, such a strange consternation there was upon them, so as it burned both in breadth and length, the churches, publiq halls, exchange, hospitals, monuments, and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house * streete to streete, at greate distances one from the other, for the heate with a long set of faire and

« IndietroContinua »