2016 marks 350 years since the Great Fire of London, a fire that swept across the city, lasting almost five days, causing total devastation. The fire, which began in a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane and raged across the capital before ending at Pie Corner, destroyed four fifths of the City all-in-all, including 13,000 buildings, 87 churches, three City gates and 52 livery halls. Though the Great Fire of London occurred more than three centuries ago, the story of this famous event in England’s history has lived on and this year we commemorate the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London on a UK £2 coin.
We are not alone in our commemorations; a season of events has already begun with walks, talks and exhibitions, and there is even more in store this weekend! Having launched on 30 August, ‘London’s Burning’, a festival of arts and ideas said to “re-imagine the Great Fire of 1666 through the vision of contemporary artists, writers and thinkers” continues across the anniversary weekend. Here’s a little look into what’s going on in London to mark the event…
Fire! Fire! [July 2016 – April 2017]
Taking place at the Museum of London is the Fire! Fire! exhibition, an interactive exhibition that lets you experience the Great Fire of London and the destruction it caused through the eyes of those affected by it. Through a stream of immersive and engaging displays, visitors can go back in time and explore; from stepping into Pudding Lane and walking through the bakery to hearing the rarely told stories of the people affected by the disaster.
The Museum of London are also hosting a programme of fire-themed walks, tours, lectures, workshops and family activities. For more information and to find out what’s on, click here.
Great Fire of London Walks and Tours
Follow the route the fire took on the Great Fire of London tour, from Pudding Lane to St Paul’s Cathedral whilst learning fascinating facts and hearing unbelievable stories along the way. To find out more about the Great Fire of London family walk, visit the Museum of London website.
Alternatively, you can peruse at your own leisure with a self-guided “Great Fire of London Walking Trail” courtesy of City of London. For more information, click here.
Celebrating a city which rose from the ashes, the Monument in London is a permanent reminder of the event. To mark the anniversary, the Monument is offering free visits and extended hours. So if you fancy the walk, 311 steps to be exact, and you’re not afraid of heights, take on the climb and enjoy panoramic views of the city and get a sense of the scale of the fire. Visit the Monument website for more details.
Watch it Burn [now – 4 September]
— greatfire350 (@greatfire350) August 29, 2016
In the lead up to the anniversary weekend, a series of short videos have been shared by Artichoke, showing us behind the scenes footage of ‘Watch it Burn’. This snapshot series takes us on a journey which will culminate on September 4 with the burning of a 120 metre long sculpture. London 1666 meets “burn” artist David Best from Artichoke to create a “once in a lifetime event” which will retell the story of the Great Fire of London through setting the sculpture of a 17th-century London skyline on fire. Follow the story and ‘Watch it Burn’ online, here on September 4.
Dominoes [3 September]
— Artichoke (@artichoketrust) August 3, 2016
Dominoes, “a sculpture moving throughout the City, transforming a simple idea into a remarkable live event” is a physical representation that will take 26,000 breeze blocks, 600 volunteers and 7km to demonstrate the route the fire took across the city. If you would like to help build this moving sculpture then you can sign up to volunteer.
Fire food market [3 September – 4 September]
If you’re feeling a little peckish or thirsty after all the walking, why not satisfy your taste buds at the night-time Fire Food Market in Guildhall Yard. In keeping with the anniversary theme, the market has taken on the theme of “fire and light” providing a range of tasty street food cooked over open-flame grills and wood-fired ovens. For more information, see here.
Of all the people in all the World [30 August – 4 September]
Taking inspiration from contemporary themes around the Great Fire of London, ‘Of all the people in all the World’ will use grains of rice to represent statistics, with different quantities illustrating different data to bring this date to life. In the case of the Great Fire of London, one grain of rice represents us as individuals, whereas four grains of rice will represent those who died in the fire. For more information, see here.
St Paul’s – Out of the Fire [May 2016 – April 2017]
Due to its thick stone walls, St Paul’s Cathedral was considered a safe place during the fire and consequently people took refuge there. However, wooden scaffolding that was erected as part of restoration work caused St Paul’s to catch fire. It was the task of architect Christopher Wren to rebuild the Cathedral and now, 350 years later, St Paul’s Cathedral have put together a programme of events allowing visitors of all ages to learn about the “colourful life of one of London’s great lost buildings” – this activity started in May this year and will run until April 2017. To find out more information, see here.
The Great Fire of London was sparked by a series of unrelated circumstances that would lead to dire consequences but would ultimately shape the London we know today. 350 years on, as the city remembers the fire with a whole host of events, The Royal Mint plays its part too, marking the anniversary with a striking £2 coin that recalls the famous disaster, designed by Royal Mint designer Aaron West. We recently caught up with Aaron ahead of the anniversary to find out a little more about his inspiration, and you can read the full interview in our latest ‘Behind the Design’ blog, here.
The 2016 Great Fire of London £2 commemorative coin is available now in Gold Proof, Silver Proof, Silver Proof Piedford, and Brilliant Uncirculated. You will also be able to find it in your change later this year.