Pepys In The Great Fire, 2nd September 1666

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On the morning of 2nd September, Samuel Pepys was awoken at around 3 am by his maids who had been up all night preparing for a feast to be held later that day. Pepys goes to the window to see for himself; meanwhile Jane his maid thought that over 300 houses had been burnt so far. Pepys dressed and walked to the Tower, where he found entire houses at the end of the bridge alight. The fire had started in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding lane. He went to the river with his boat and went under the bridge. People were trying desperately to move their belongings and themselves to someplace safe. The pigeons were loathe to leave and hovered around the roofs and balconies. Pepys then went to Whitehall where he gave the people an account of what had happened. Word of the fire reached the King and he called for Pepys. Whereupon Pepys related to the King and the Duke of York what he had seen. Houses burning, wind whipping up the fire. Pepys also expressed his concern to the King that if an order was not made to pull down the houses still standing nothing could stop the fire. The King ordered Pepys to go the the Lord Mayor and tell him to have all the houses pulled down to which the Lord Mayor replied ‘I am spent. People will not obey me’ After seeing as much as he could he went to Whitehall to an appointment there, later he walked to St. James Park where he met his wife. They went as near to the fire as was possible but smoke and burning embers drove them back. As it grew dark Pepys and his friends went to an alehouse on the Bankside. Pepys said that the flames were like no other fires he had ever seen. Pepys and Tom Hater removed all of his belongings into the garden. His money and bags of gold into chests and made them safe. The fire made him weep as he had never seen anything like it before. 1 This extract drawn from Pepys’s diary is an account of Great Fire of London

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