How the Great Fire of London started

Thomas Farriner was just a producer of ship's biscuit for the Navy. But after 2nd September 1666, he became famous for something that would change the history of London

map of london from day of fire

Thomas Farriner closed for business at the usual time on Saturday evening, around eight or nine at night. His oven was probably of the beehive type, a brick structure which was brought up to temperature by laying bundles of faggots directly on its floor and kindling them with a light from the bakehouse hearth. The faggots were raked out when the baker judged the oven to be hot enough; loaves were baked when it was at its hottest, and then as it cooled down their place was taken by pies and pasties.

So the oven should have been virtually cold by now. Thomas checked it and filled it with faggots ready for the morning. He prepared several pots of baked meat for Sunday dinner, raked up the coals in the hearth and went to bed. A couple of flitches of bacon were left beside the oven.

Hanna checked on the bakehouse around midnight, when she also took a last look round the house to make sure all was well. Then she too went to bed.

About an hour later the Farriners’ manservant woke up. Smoke filled the ground floor of the bakery, and he could hardly breathe with the fumes. But he managed to climb the stairs and rouse Thomas, Hanna and the maid. Only now there was no way down, and the four found themselves trapped on the upper floor.

Someone, either Thomas or his manservant, hit on the idea of clambering out of one of the upstairs windows, crawling along the guttering and climbing back in through their neighbour’s window. They were shouting as loud as they could to raise the alarm:

And now the doleful, dreadful, hideous Note
Of FIRE, is screem’d out with a deep-strain’d throat;
Horror, and fear, and sad distracted Cryes,
Chide Sloth away, and bids the Sluggard rise;
Most direful Exclamations are let fly
From every Tongue, Tears stand in every Eye.

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