The Great Fire Of London


On Sunday morning, the 2nd September 1666, the destruction
of medieval London began. Within 5 days the city which
Shakespeare had known was destroyed by fire. An area of one and
a half miles by half a mile lay in ashes; 373 acres inside the city walls
and 63 acres outside, 87 churches destroyed (including St. Paul's Cathedral)
and 13,200 houses. In all this destruction, it is amazing that only 6 people are
definitely known to have been killed. However, it seems likely that the
actual death toll was much higher. In destroying the close packed houses
and other buildings it is also likely that the fire finally put an end to the
Great Plague that had devastated the city in the previous year - killing 17,440
out of the population of 93,000.

The fire started in the house and shop of Thomas Farynor,
baker to King Charles II in Pudding Lane (the site of Farynor's house
is marked today by the Monument). Farynor forgot to douse the fire in his
oven on the previous night and embers set light to the nearby stacked
firewood. By one o'clock in the morning, three hours after Farynor had
gone to bed, the house and shop were well alight. Farynor's assistant
woke finding the house full of smoke and the roused the household.
Farynor, his wife and daughter and one servant escaped by climbing through
an upstairs window and along the roof tops. The maid was too frightened
to climb along the roof and stayed in the house - becoming the first
victim of the fire.

Sparks from the burning house fell on hay and straw
in the yard of the Star Inn at Fish Street Hill. The London of 1666 was
a city of half timbered and pitch covered medieval buildings, mostly with thatched
roofs. These buildings were extreme fire risks and ignited very easily.
In the strong winds that blew that morning, the sparks spread rapidly,
setting fire to roofs and houses as they fell. From the Star Inn, the fire
engulfed St. Margaret's church and then entered Thames Street.
Here there were warehouses and wharves packed with flammable
materials - oil, spirits, tallow, hemp, straw, coal etc. By now the fire was far
too fierce to be fought with the crude hand operated devices that were
all that was available. By 8.00am, seven hours after the fire had started,
the flames were half way across old London Bridge. Only the gap
left by a previous fire in 1633 prevented the flames from crossing the bridge
and starting new fires in Southwark on the south bank of the river.

The fires burned all that day and on through the next.
Fleet Street, Old Bailey, Ludgate Hill, Newgate etc. were all reduced to
ashes. The stones of St. Paul's cathedral were reported to be
exploding with the heat and molten lead from the roof ran down the streets in
a stream. The strong easterly winds kept the flames advancing.
There was little that could be done to stop the spread
of the fire. Various laws had been enacted, obliging the parishes to
provide buckets, ladders, squirts and fire hooks, but much of the
equipment was rotten through neglect and water supplies, away from the
banks of the river, were scarce.

By now, with little other alternatives, thoughts turned to
demolishing houses to create fire breaks. Lord Mayor Bludworth
was rather concerned as to who would foot the bill for
rebuilding houses that the corporation ordered to be pulled down. Bludworth
was over-ruled on the orders of the King. The 'trained bands' were called out
to assist with the demolotion but they began too close to the advancing fires
and were unable to clear the sites before the ruins became added fuel
for the flames.

In desperation now, gunpowder was used to blow up
houses - and often with excessive success! For three more days the
fire raged through the City - before finally burning out at Temple Church
near Holborn Bridge. As relief began to set in after the previous days
panic, the dying fire flared up again and began to creep onwards
towards Whitehall. The Duke of York ordered the destruction
of more buildings and the fire was finally brought under control.

By the end of the fire some four fifths of the City had been destroyed,
approximately 13,200 houses, 87 churches and 50 Livery Halls
over an area of 436 acres. Although the fire only claimed a
few lives it may actually have saved many more - the rats that
had helped to transmit the bubonic plague (Black Death) the previous year
mostly died in the fire. The number of plague
victims dropped rapidly after the fire.

For those who had lost everything, life was a sudden
descent into abject poverty. The population of the City was dispersed
around St. George's Fields and Moorfields and out as far as Highgate.
Some were provided with tents, others made what shelter they could and
build huts and hovels. Thousands of people were ruined and
deAngliaCampusors prisons became overcrowded.

The Great Fire of London set in motion changes in the
capital which laid the foundations for organised firefighting in the future.
Wooden houses and designs dating back to the medieval period were
replaced with brick and stone buildings and owners began to insure their
properties against fire damage. The new insurance companies quickly
realised that their losses could be minimised by employing men to put
out fires. Christopher Wren, the great 17th Century architect
began the reconstruction of London and built 49 new churches
together with the great cathedral of St. Paul's that we
know today. After the fire of 1666, the face of London had changed forever.


The Plague

The Great Plague of London (1664-1666) was an outbreak
of bubonic plague that struck London and was particularly violent
during the hot months of August and September of 1665. In one week,
7,165 people died of the plague. The total number of deaths was about
70,000. The disease was carried by fleas that lived on black rats.
It was generally incurable, and its effects were terrible--fever and chills, swelling
of the lymph glands, eventual madness and death.

In 1663 plague ravaged Holland. Charles II forbade any
trade with the Dutch, partly out of wise concern, and partly because his
realm was engaged in a fierce trade war with Holland which
eventually erupted into armed conflict. Despite the precautions, the early spring
of 1665 brought a sudden rise in the death rate in the poorer sections
of London. The authorities ignored it. As spring turned into one of thehottest summers in
memory, the number of deaths escalated and panic set in.

The rich flee. The nobility left the city for their estates
in the country. They were followed by the merchants, and the lawyers.
The Inns of Court were deserted. Most of the clergy suddenly decided they
could best minister to their flocks from far, far away. The College of
Surgeons fled to the country, which did not stop several of its members
from writing learned papers about the disease they had been at such
pains to avoid. The court moved to Hampton Court Palace.
The gates are closed. By June the roads were clogged
with people desperate to escape London. The Lord Mayor
responded by closing the gates to anyone who did not have a certificate of health.
These certificates became a currency more valuable than
gold, and a thriving market in forged certificates grew up.
Desperate Measures. By mid July over 1,000 deaths per
week were reported in the city. It was rumored that dogs and cats
spread the disease, so the Lord Mayor ordered all the dogs and cats
destroyed. Author Daniel Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Years
estimated that 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed. The real effect
of this was that there were fewer natural enemies of the rats who
carried the plague fleas, so the germs spread more rapidly.

The Great Plague was an epidemic that devastated London
and the south east of England between 1664 and 1666. The poor
conditions in towns and cities were a major cause of the disease
spreading quickly. The plague of the 1660s did not affect the wealthier
areas as badly as the poor parts.

A cross was painted on the doors of those houses
affected by the plague. Carts were driven around the empty streets
with their drivers shouting 'bring out your dead', carrying the corpses to
the burial pits. Those infected were either shut in their own homes with
their families or carried to special 'pesthouses' and, once the cemeteries
were filled, the dead were buried in mass graves. The epidemic was at its
worst in the third week of September 1665 when the death toll was
estimated at well over 10,000. A cold autumn reduced the toll to 900
deaths in the final week of November and the crisis had ended by the
time the King returned to London on February 1st 1666.

The Great Plague was an epidemic that devastated
London and the south east of England between 1664 and 1666.
The poor conditions in towns and cities were a major cause of the disease
spreading quickly. The plague of the 1660s did not affect the wealthier
areas as badly as the poor parts.


Jack The Ripper

Dare you walk thre streets of jack The Rippers! London!!
In the 1880,s the East end of London was a rather unpleasant
place to live. High unemployment and low wages brought poverty
and homelessness,and a general feeling of desperation pervaded the air

As a result, people lived their squalid lives against a background of
immorality, drunkeness, crime and violence.Robbery and assault
were commonplace and the streets were ruled by gangs.

Then between 31 August and (th September 1888, there occured
a sries of murders so gruesome, so evil, that they outraged the entire
nation.The killer was never found, but from those days forward,
he was known as Jack The Ripper
Who was he? Where did he come from? Those are the questions
detectives, criminologists and historians have been asking for over a century.

THE SUSPECTS
The slaughter of five prostitutes in the space of 10 weeks, all within
a mile of each other spread fear and anger throughout Whitchapel.
Police and vigilantes filled the streets and angry mobs attacked
likely suspects.
The murderer was never found, despite the investigations of inspector
Abberline and his detectives from the Metropolitan police.
So who could have been Jack The Ripper? Over the years there has been
much speculation about his identity.
Some of the favourite suspects have included....
George Chapman...who was hanged in 1903 for poisoning.
John Pizer...The shoe maker nicknamed ! Leather Apron !
who was supposed to have been seen arguing with Annie Chapman
In Hanbury street.
Aaron Kosminski... a polish immigrant living in Whitechapel,
who was known to hate women, particularly prostitutes.
he was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum in 1889.
American Dr Francis Tumblety...who was arrested but escaped
and fled back to america where a series of of !! ripper-like !! murders
were commited.
James Maybrick... A Liverpool merchant with digs in Whitechapel,
The alleged author of the diary of Jack The Ripper.
Prince Albert Victor, The duke of Clarence, or even
Sir William gull,The queens doctor.
Whatever the truth, we shall proberbly never know, but more than a century
later researchers are still incovering more evidence and trying to
identify with certainty, the mysterious killer of Whitechapel.


Mary Polly Nicholls..(1845-1888)
The first acknowledhed Ripper victim.
At approximately 3.40 am on the 31st August,her body was discovered
in Bucks Row by Pc John Neil, her throat had been
cut and her body mutilated


Annie Chapman...(1841-1888)
Found shortly before 6.00 am on the 8th September
in the backyard of 29 hanbury Street.her throat had been cut
her body terribly mutilated and certain organs removed from
her abdomen in a manner which suggested that her attacker
had anatomical knowledge.


Elizabeth Stride...(1843-1888)
Discovered on the 30th September at 1.00 am
when Louis Diemschutz turned his pony and trap into the yard behind
40 Berner Street.Her throat had been cut so recently it was
felt that louis..untimely arrival had proberbly disturbed
the Ripper during the attack.


Catharine Eddowes...(1842-1888)

Catharines corpse was found less than an hour after Elizabeth
Strides...in Mitre square.She had been ferociously attacked
especially round the face and abdomen.Like Annie Chapman
some of her internal organs had been removed.


Mary Jane Kelly
The last Ripper victim,murdered in her lodgings at 13 Millers Court
sometime after 4am on the 9th November. This was the most
savage and gruesome attack.her entire body was horribly mutilated
her face was hacked beyond recognition.

Prostitution In Victorian Times

Victorian Britain was not so prim and proper as we
might like to think.The major cities teemed with prostitutes
ranging from poverty-stricken girls selling themselves for a few
shillings in the slums to rich courtesans who catered for the sexual
peccadilloes of the aristocrats.
In 1857, police reported that there were 3,325 brothels in
London. Medical journal The lancet put the figure at nearer
6,000, claiming that one house in every 60 in the capital was a
brothel. In 1860, it was estimated that london had over 100,000
prostitutes.Many of them were not full time prostitutes, but working
class women in low paid jobs who sometimes resorted to prostitution
to supplement their incomes.

Desperate Measures

Poverty drove many women into prostitution.Jobs for the working
class women in London tended to be badly paid, with seamstresses
shop girls and women who worked from home earning barely
enough to live on.
Women with illegitamate children to support had particular
difficulty finding jobs and, with no welfare state, prostitution
often seemed the only option. Some of the prostitutes were
homeless in the slums of London,s East End.
Desperate women would sell themselves for a price of a nights
lodgings.In ports such as Newcastle and Liverpool, dockside
prostitutes sold themselves to sailors for pitifully small amounts.
Life was very different at the top end of the market.
Londons most exclusive and expensive courtesans paraded
in the fashionable Burlington Arcade and the Haymarket,
where they picked up rich customers.Another favourite haunt
was Cremorne Gardens, a riverside pleasure ground in Chelsea
which was notorious for evening drunkeness and debauchery
Prostitutes could earn 20-30 a week... a small fortune in an era
when average working class family had to survive on less than
50 a year.

Risky Business

Luxurious brothels were set up to attract upper class customers.
One brothel in St Georges Road london, was said to cater almost
exclusively for members of Parliament.Women working in such
exclusive establishments were expected to have a range of skills
both inside and outside the bedroom. Some were accomplished
singers and musicians, some were uncommonly beautiful.
But few prostitutes attained such levels of luxury.
It could be a dangerous profession, especially at the rough end of the
market.Women who walked the streets in all weathers risked
death and influenza, pneumonia,or tuberculosis.
Sexually transmitted diseases were another threat.Antibiotics
had yet to be discovered, and few available treatments were
unreliable as well as expensive,many women died of syphilis.
Doctors treating diseased prostitutes in Edinburgh,Lock Hospital
estimated that almost 90 per cent of the women died before the age of 30.
In 1864 the government brought in the contagious diseases acts
Under these laws, any woman suspected of being a prostitute could be
arrested and forced to submit to a humiliating intimate medical
examination by a male police doctor in order to determine whether
she had any sexully transmitted diseases.
Womens rights activists, led by Josephine Butler,campaigned
vigorously against the acts, which were eventually repealed in 1886.


Loss Of Innocence
Child prostitution was common-and legal.In the 1860s
the age of consent was only 12, and in 1875 it was raised to 13
Girls of this age were in great demand.Men would pay high prices
to brothels which offered young virgins!! to be deflowered
In 1885 campaigning journalist W.T Stead exposed this trade
in a series of articles entitled !The maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.
One of Steads colleagues had posed as a procuress and brought a 13-year
old virgin,Eliza Armstrong, from her mother for 5
Steds articles caused a public outcry and the age of consent
was raised to 16 later the same year.
Little could be done to protect prostitutes from violent clients
Beween August and November 1888Jack the Ripper murdered five
prostitutes in londons east end, and mutilated their corpses.
Despite a massive police search, he was never found,and his identity
remains a mystery to this day.But he was far from the only person to
commit crimes of violence against prostitutes.
Many women were brutally beaten or killed by their clientsor their pimps