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at first did frighten people more than anything; but it stopped the fire where it was done, it bringing down the houses to the ground, in the same places they stood, and then it was easy to quench what little fire was in it.
September 5th. I lay down in the office again upon W. Hewer's quilt, being mighty weary, and sore in my feet with going till I was hardly able to stand. About two in the morning my wife calls me up, and tells me of new cries of fire, it being come to Barking Church, which is the bottom of our lane.' I up, and, finding it so, resolved presently to take her away, and did, and took my gold, which was about £2,350. W. Hewer and Jane down by Proundy's boat to Woolwich ; but Lord ! what a sad sight it was by moonlight to see the whole city almost on fire, that you might see it plain at Woolwich as if you were by it. There, when I came, I found the gates shut, but no guard kept at all, which troubled me, because of discourses now begun that there is a plot in it, and that the French had done it. I got the gates open, and to Mr. Shelden's, where I locked up my gold, and charged my wife and W. Hewer never to leave the room without one of them in it, night nor day. So back again; and, whereas I expected to have seen our house on fire, it being now about seven o'clock, but it was not. But to the fire, and there find greater hopes than I expected; for my
confidence of finding our office on fire was such that I durst not ask anybody how it was with us, till I come and saw it was not burned. But, going to the fire, I find, by the blowing up of houses, and the great help given by the workmen out of the King's Yard, sent up by Sir W. Penn (from Deptford], there is a good stop given to it, as well at Mark Lane end as ours, it having only burned the dial of Barking Church, and part of the porch, and was there quenched. I up to the top of Barking steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation that I ever saw; everywhere great fires, oilcellars, and brimstone, and other things burning. I became afraid to stay there long, and therefore down again as fast as I could, the fire being spread as far as I could see it ; and to Sir W. Penn's, and there ate a piece of cold meat, having eaten nothing since Sunday but the remains of Sunday's dinner.' Here I met with Mr. Young and Mr. Whistler; and having removed all my things, and received good hopes that the fire at our end is stopped, they and I walked into the town, and found Fenchurch Street, Gracechurch Street, and Lombard Street all in dust. The Exchange a sad sight; nothing standing there, of all the statues or pillars, but Sir Thomas Gresham's picture in the corner. Into Moorfields (our feet ready to burn, walking through the town among the hot coals),
* Pepys seems to have forgotten the “shoulder of mutton from the cook's” which he partook of the day before.
and find that full of people, and poor wretches carrying their goods there, and everybody keeping his goods together by themselves; and a great blessing it is to them, that it is fair weather for them to keep abroad night and day. Drank there, and paid twopence for a plain penny loaf. Thence homeward, having passed through Cheapside and Newgate market, all burned."
On the following day, the 6th of September, the fire had lost much of its fury, and by the 7th it was almost entirely subdued. The spectacle, however, of ruin and desolation, which everywhere presented itself, increased by the solemn silence which had succeeded to the crashing of timbers, the falling of roofs, and the shrieks of women and children, was even more distressing than the sight of the conflagration itself. “ The poor inhabitants,” writes Evelyn, “were dispersed about St. George's Fields and Moorfields, as far as Highgate, and several miles in circle; some under tents, some under miserable huts and hovels; many without a rag or any necessary utensils, bed or board, who, from delicateness, riches, and easy accommodations, in stately and well-furnished houses, were now reduced to extremest misery and poverty. In this calamitous condition, I returned with a sad heart to my house, blessing and adoring the distinguishing mercy of God to me and mine, who, in the midst all this ruin, was like Lot, in my little Zoar, safe and sound.”
How mournful and impressive is Evelyn's subsequent account of his ramble through the streets of the ruined city!
September 7th. I went this morning on foot from Whitehall as far as London Bridge, through the late Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, by St. Paul's, Cheapside, Exchange, Bishopsgate, Aldersgate, and out to Moorfields; thence through Cornhill, with extraordinary difficulty clambering over heaps of yet smoking rubbish, and frequently mistaking where I was. The ground under my feet was so hot that it even burnt the soles of my shoes. In the meantime, his Majesty got to the Tower by water, to demolish the houses about the Graff, which, being built entirely about it, had they taken fire, and attacked the White Tower, where the magazine of powder lay, would undoubtedly not only have beaten down and destroyed all the bridge, but sunk and torn the vessels in the river, and rendered the demolition beyond all expression, for several miles about the country.
“On my return, I was infinitely concerned to find that goodly church, St. Paul's, now a sad ruin, and that beautiful portico (for structure comparable to any in Europe, as not long before repaired by the late king) now rent in pieces; flakes of vast stone split asunder, and nothing remaining entire but the inscription in the architrave, showing by whom it was built, which had not one letter of it defaced. It was astonishing to see what
immense stones the heat had in a manner calcined; so that all the ornaments, columns, friezes, capitals, and projectures of massive Portland stone flew off, even to the very roof; where a sheet of lead, covering a great space (no less than six acres by measure), was totally melted. The ruins of the vaulted roof falling, broke into St. Faith's, which being filled with the magazines of books belonging to the stationers, and carried thither for safety, they were all consumed, burning for a week following! It is also observable that the lead over the altar at the east end was untouched, and among the diverse monuments, the body of one bishop remained entire. Thus lay in ashes that most venerable church, one of the most ancient pieces of early piety in the Christian world, besides near one hundred more: The lead, iron work, bells, plate, etc., melted; the exquisitely wrought Mercers' Chapel, the sumptuous Exchange; the august fabric of Christ's Church; all the rest of the Companies' Halls; splendid buildings, arches, entries, all in dust; the fountains dried up and ruined, whilst the very waters remained boiling; the voragos of subterranean cellars, wells, and dungeons, formerly warehouses, still burning in stench, and dark clouds of smoke; so that in five or six miles traversing about, I did not see one load of timber unconsumed, nor many stones but what were calcined white as snow.