The Great Fire of London began before dawn on Sunday, 2nd September, 1666 and raged for four days, in the course of which the historic medieval city known to Chaucer and to Shakespeare vanished.

The standard procedure to stop a fire from spreading had always been to destroy the houses on the path of the flames, creating “fire-breaks”, to deprive a fire from fuel. Lord Mayor Bludworth, however, was hesitant, worrying about the cost of rebuilding. By the time a Royal command came down, carried by Samuel Pepys, the fire was too out of control to stop. The Trained Bands of London were called in to demolish houses by gunpowder, but often the rubble was too much to be cleared before the fire was at hand, and only eased the fire's way onward. The fire blazed unchecked for another three days, until it halted near Temple Church. Then, it suddenly sprang to life again, continuing towards Westminster. The Duke of York (later King James II) had the presence of mind to order the Paper House demolished to create a fire break, and the fire finally died down.

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