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This is the fifth article in my series of posts on the Great Fire of London.
Wednesday, September 5, 1666. As a ruddy dawn broke over the ruined city, the fire was at last starting to burn itself out. The firebreaks made in various places by James, the Duke of York (and later King James II), mostly by blowing up buildings in its path, finally checked the advance of the flames. The most important factor for the end of the fire, though, was environmental–the wind, the terrible “gale” that blew unchecked during the disaster, finally abated to a dead calm.
Nevertheless, there were still patchy fires burning in many parts of the city. Samuel Pepys wandered the streets, burning his feet in the process. At Temple, an old church that was said to have been built by the Knights Templars went up in flames. But the fire as a whole was abating.
Now the human cost of the disaster came to the fore. Thousands of Londoners made homeless by the blaze were quartered at Moorfields, some in tents, some sleeping out in the open. Among them was Thomas Farriner, the baker in whose premises the blaze started, and his daughter. Rumors and panics spread through the desperate refugees. Many believed that the Dutch, with whom the British were at war, had deliberately fired the city. Some angry mobs roved through what streets remained, attacking and beating foreigners or Catholics. Religious and nationalist tensions were high.
By dawn on Thursday the fire was out in most places, but London would never be the same. In the next (and final) article I’ll discuss the aftermath and legacy of the Great Fire, and why it matters.