The Great Fire of London is one of the historical events that shaped the city of London, with the disaster truly leaving its mark on the city. Those interested in learning about the Great Fire of 1666 should head straight to the Monument, which was built by Sir Christopher Wren to remember the fire and mark the rebuilding of London.
The Great Fire of London broke out at baker’s house on Pudding Lane, with the first official account appearing in the London Gazette on Sunday September 2nd 1666 on the day of the outbreak. The second account appeared six days later, with the regular issue of the paper having being interrupted by the blaze. Although loss of life from the fire was minimal, it brought all activity to a halt, consuming and damaging thousands of houses and hundreds of streets in addition to the city’s gates, public buildings, churches and St Paul’s Cathedral.
Unfortunately, the only buildings that managed to partly survive were those built of stone like St Paul’s and the Guildhall.
The Monument stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill in the City of London, and was built between 1671 and 1677. It was designed by surveyor general to King Charles II Sir Christopher Wren and his colleague
Dr Robert Hooke. They decided to create a colossal Doric column in the ancient tradition. It contained a cantilevered stone staircase of 311 steps with a viewing platform at the top. Atop the column sits a drum and copper urn from which flames are shooting to symbolise the great fire. It is well worth a visit, being the tallest isolated stone column in the world.
The Monument stands at 61 metres high, which is the exact distance between the landmark and the site in Pudding Lane where the fire originated. It was finally completed in 1677 and was originally used for experiments of the Royal Society. However, the vibrations from the capital’s non-stop traffic voided many of these tests and they were discontinued. The Monument thereafter became a place of historical interest, providing visitors with the unique opportunity to look across London in all directions from the height of 160 feet – the height at which the public gallery sits.
Since people have been visiting the Monument for centuries, there are plenty of amusing anecdotes of incidents that have taken place at the majestic landmark.
In the Daily Journal dated September 16th 1732, there was an amusing account of a sailor’s so-called adventure at the Monument.
It read: "Yesterday, about five o'clock in the evening, notwithstanding the wind was so high, a sailor flew from the top of the Monument to the Upper Three Tuns tavern in Gracechurch Street, which he did in less than half a minute; there was a numerous crowd of spectators to see him.
“He came down within 20 feet of the place where the rope was fixed, and then flung himself off; and offered, if the gentlemen would make him a handsome collection, he would go up and fly down again."
A number of tragic incidents have also occurred at the Monument, with five people committing suicide at the landmark. After Jane Cooper, a servant girl, threw herself off the Monument on August 19th 1842, the gallery was enclosed in an iron cage to prevent any further such incidents.
There has never been a better time to visit the Monument, as it has recently undergone an 18 month programme of improvements and repairs, which cost some £4.5 million. The restoration work was carried out by the Cathedral Works Organisation Ltd, and was filmed and photographed by Harris Digital Productions, who also set up a website to show the work in progress.
However, this is not the first time repairs have been carried out on the landmark, with work being done on it approximately every hundred years, with the last repairs taking place in 1888.