Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The London Gazette, September 1666

I came across a small collection labeled "fictional English newspapers" donated to us in the 1960s. My initial thought was that they must be satirical publications similar to The Onion, but further investigation revealed that they are apparently reprints done by Head & Meek (of 15 Wine Office Court, Fleet Street) circa the 1870s of real newspapers. I found them very interesting and decided to post a couple of excerpts from the London Gazette's coverage of the Great Fire in 1666.

The ordinary course of this paper having been interuppted by a sad and lamentable accident of Fire lately happened in the City of London : it hath been thought fit for satisfying the minds of so many of His Majesties good Subjects who must needs be concerned for the Issue of so great an accident, to give this short, but true Account of it.

On the second instant, at one of the clock in the Morning, there happened to break out, a sad in deplorable Fire in the Pudding-lane, neer New Fish-street, which falling out at that hour of the night, and in a quarter of the Town so close built with wooden pitched houses spread itself so far before day, and with such distraction to the inhabitants and Neighbours, that care was taken for the timely preventing the further diffusion of it, by pulling down houses, as ought to have been ; so that this lamentable Fire in a short time became so big to be mastred by any Engines or working neer it. It fell most unhappily too, That a violent Easterly wind fomented it, and kept it burning all that day, and the night following spreading itself up to Grace-church-street and downwards from Cannon-street to the Water-side, as far as the Three Cranes in the Vintrey.

The people in all parts about it, distracted by the vastness of it, and their particular care to carry away their Goods, many attempts were made to prevent the spreading of it by pulling down Houses, and making great Intervals, but all in vain, the Fire seizing upon the Timber and Rubbish, and so continuing it set even through those spaces, and raging in a bright flame all Monday and Teusday, notwithstanding His Majesties own, and His Royal Highness's indefatigable and personal pains to apply all possible remedies to prevent it, calling upon and helping the people with their Guards ; and a great number of Nobility and Gentry unwearidly assisting therein, for which they were requited with a thousand blessings from the poor distressed people. By the favour of God the Wind slackened a little on Teusday night & the Flames meeting with brick buildings at the Temple, by little and little it was observed to lose its force on that side, so that on Wednesday morning we began to hope well, and his Royal Highness never despairing or slackening his personal care wrought so well that day assisted in some parts by the Lords of the Council before and behind it that a stop was put to it at the Temple Church, neer Holburn-bridge, Pie-corner, Aldersgate, Cripple-gate, neer the lower end of Coleman-street, at the end of Basin-hall-street and Leadenhall-street, at the Standard in Cornhill at the chuch in Fenchurch street, neer Cloth-workers Hall in Mineing-lane, at the middle of Murk-lane, at the Tower-dock. . .


This dismal fire broke out at a baker's shop in Pudding-lane, by Fish-street, in the lower part of the city, near Thames-street (among wooden houses ready to take fire & full of combustible goods) in Billinsgate-ward ; which ward in a few hours was laid to ashes. As it began in the dead of night when everybody was asleep, the darkness greatly increased the horror of the calamity ; it rapidly rushed down the hill to the bridge ; crossed Thames-street to St. Magnus church at the foot of the bridge ; but having scaled and captured its fort, shot large volumes of flames into every place about it. The fire drifted back to the city again & roared with such great violence through Thames-street aided with combustible matter deposited there with such a fierce wind at its back as to strike with horror its beholders.

Fire ! Fire ! Fire ! doth resound in every street, some starting out of their sleep & peeping through the windows half-dressed. Some in night dresses rushing wildly about the streets crying piteously & praying to God for assistance, women carrying children in their arms & the men looking quite bewildered. Many cripples were also seen hobbling about not knowing which way to go to get free from the flames which were raging all around them. No man that hand the sence of human miseries could unconcertedly behold the frightful destruction made in one of the noblest Cities in the world.

What a confusion ! the Lord Mayor of the city came with his officers, & London so famous for its wisdom can find neither hands nor brains to prevent its utter ruin. London must fall to the ground in ashes & who can prevent it? The fire raged mastery, & burnt dreadfully; by the fierce Easterly wind it spread quickly in all directions, overturning all so furiously that the whole city is brought into a desolation. That night most of the citizens had taken their last sleep; & when they went to sleep they little thought that when their ears were unlocked that such an enemy had invaded their City, & that they should see him with such fury break through their doors, & enter their rooms with such threatening countenance. . .


Related Posts with Thumbnails