In the early hours of 2nd September 1666 a fire broke out at a bakery in Pudding Lane in the City of London. Fires in the wooden houses where cooking was done on open ranges were a frequent occurrence, but this one was different for the summer had been particularly dry and there was a warm, dry easterly breeze. Flames spread quickly from street to street, leaping across the narrow gaps where the eaves of the buildings all but touched. Before the fire abated on the fifth day 373 acres had been reduced to a sea of smouldering ruins with 13,200 houses and 87 churches, including St Paul's Cathedral, had been destroyed. The City of London was the greatest commercial centre of the world, the hub of the new empire and now all the shops, offices and livery company halls in that area were destroyed leaving over 100,000 people homeless. The City was also a centre of great power and influence overseen by The Lord Mayor and the livery companies that fostered and regulated the crafts and professions. It was soon realised that it had to be re-built as quickly as possible for, as one observer noted 'Day by Day its wealth flowed out of the gate'.
The city authorities wanted to prevent shopkeepers and craftsmen from setting up in outskirts such as Clerkenwell and Westminster where they would compete for trade but escape regulation and local taxes. An exact survey was immediately undertaken to assist with the task of re-development and this detailed, pictorial view was completed just three months after the disaster. It shows the full extent of the devastated area, the roads, churches and the coats of arms of the livery company halls that were destroyed. Beyond the limit of the fire little had changed since medieval times. Parks and churches are shown as well as the closely packed houses that survived and even the trees in their gardens. There is also a dramatic painting of the fire as it appeared to an artist on the south bank of the river. Each map has a history giving statistics and facts about the disaster, eye witness accounts of Samuel Pepys who wrote about it each day in his famous diary. This edition of the map, the original of which is in The Museum of London, has been sensitively coloured for re-publication.show more