Students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the Great London Fire of 1666, how it started, what it destroyed and how the government responded, and finally how Christopher Wren and others responded by remaking London in stone, changing the old capital into the modern city it is today.
Great London Fire of 1666
Museum of London
St. Paul’s Cathedral
UK National Archives
Having stayed, and in an hour's time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods and leave all to the fire; and having seen it get as far as the Steeleyard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the city, and everything, after so long a drougth, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things, the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs Horsley lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top and there burned till it fall down - I to Whitehall with a gentleman with me who desired to go off from the Tower to see the fire in my boat - to Whitehall, and there up to the King's closet in the chapel, where people came about me and I did give them an account dismayed them all; and word was carried in to the King, so I was called for and did tell the King and Duke of York what I saw, and that unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire.
Diary of Samuel Pepys, September 1666
“London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down; London Bridge is falling down, My fair Lady”… a nursery rhyme sung by children for generations. Most kids today sing it cheerfully and as part of a simple toddler’s game, but the lyrics may have much darker beginnings. The Great London Fire of 1666 devastated the old wooden city, including London Bridge and the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. The rebuilding of modern London in stone by architects such as Christopher Wren (who redesigned St. Paul’s) helped create many of the iconic symbols of identity modern Londoners take for granted today.
Through an in-depth analysis of primary and secondary sources, students in this lesson will identify, understand and be able to explain the Great London Fire of 1666, how it started, what it destroyed and how the government responded, and finally how Wren and others responded by remaking London in stone, changing the old capital into the modern city it is today.
To view resource web pages, download the lesson plan PDF above.
While on tour, students visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the Great London Fire of 1666. The rebuilt church, now an iconic symbol of London, is the home of memorials to Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale, TE Lawrence and the Duke of Wellington.
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