Friday, 2 September 2016

Conflagration Anniversary

Yes, I do mean the Great Fire of London but I wanted an excuse to use the word conflagration. It rolls around the tongue in a most satisfying way. Today is the 350th anniversary of the fire which famously began in Pudding Lane, London.

When the alarm was first raised, the Lord Mayor of London was told of the news. His response was said to be,

"Pish! A woman might piss it out!"

He was wrong! It burned for four days, aided by the recent drought and tinder dry buildings. London houses in those days were closely packed together and many were made of wood and straw so, unsurprisingly, the fire quickly spread. Somewhere in the region of 13,200 houses were destroyed and about 80,000 people were made homeless.

People came from all around to help fight the fire. Even King Charles II joined the firefighters. What's more, the fire destroyed any last remnants of the plague which had still been killing so many people only a year earlier. The main records of the event are from diarists who had little interest in the poor people. Samuel Pepys talks of such essentials as making sure he had buried his Parmesan cheese to keep it safe from the fire. Little is known about the vast encampments outside the city where the homeless were forced to settle, for anything from months to years, until houses were rebuilt.

It would be interesting to know a bit more about what happened to them but, if this had been a current event, reporters would have zoomed in with their cameras on every painful detail of hardship and deprivation. I have said this before in an earlier blog, but it bears repetition. We expect to be informed about disasters, but there is a difference between reporting the news and being given a ghoulishly voyeuristic view of these events and their effects on the victims.

(steps onto soap box)  
Please, if you're a news reporter, back off from people's tears, broken bones and weeping wounds. They are not news. They are an invasion of privacy.


  1. How I agree - grief is not news, it is simply grief. Let people alone with it.

    As for fires - I live in a town with a history of fires, and has a by-law (made after an entire street was burned down) that no house can be build with a thatched roof - which makes dating the thatched buildings easier! But we still have too many connecting roof-spaces - a reminder of the civil war when Cromwell was stationed nearby and the Royalist townsfolk needed to hide from them.

    1. That's fascinating, Jo. I can almost imagine the Royalists scrambling between the rafters,

  2. Hi Ros .. couldn't agree more about totally over-egging the situation - grief is bad enough. We are constantly shown repetitive views of desperate peoples ... and Trump: what is the world coming to ... or the BBC or ITV for that matter. I'm off my soap box ...

    Re the Great Fire ... this article might interest you:

    I wrote about Pepys' Parmesan and the Great Fire - Parmesan was incredibly valuable - which is why he buried it ...

    The Cheapside Hoard that was found in 1912 ... had been buried prior to the fire, and then was lost for 250 odd years ... both posts were in March 2015 ... should anyone wish to look.

    Fascinating to read about Jo's town and the by-laws ... we do have amazing history ... thanks for another reminder about homeless peoples from that time - as well as today. All the best - Hilary

  3. conflagration is a grand word, but the results are sad. Good post, stay on that soapbox, and also have a good weekend. No fires!

  4. It must have been awful for all those people to be homeless for so long. I agree with you about the press it's very intrusive when people are at their lowest. The adverts for charities are the same I feel like shouting get that camera out of that child's face.