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1666 - The Great Fire of London destroys about 13,200 houses
In 1666 came the great fire of London. It began on 2 September in a baker's house in Pudding Lane. At first it did not cause undue alarm. The Lord Mayor was awoken and said "Pish! A woman might piss it out!". But the wind caused the flames to spread rapidly. People formed chains with leather buckets and worked hand operated pumps all to no avail. The mayor was advised to use gunpowder to create fire breaks but he was reluctant, fearing the owners of destroyed buildings would sue for compensation. The fire continued to spread until the king took charge. He ordered sailors to make fire breaks. At the same time the wind dropped.
About 13,200 houses had been destroyed and 70-80,000 people had been made homeless. The king ordered the navy to make tents and canvas available from their stores to help the homeless who camped on open spaces around the city. Temporary markets were set up so the homeless could buy food. but the crowds of homeless soon dispersed. Most of the houses in London were still standing and many of the homeless found accommodation in them or in nearby villages. Others built wooden huts on the charred ruins.
To prevent such a disaster happening again the king commanded that all new houses in London should be of stone and brick not wood. Citizens were responsible for rebuilding their own houses but a tax was charged on coal brought by ship into London to finance the rebuilding of churches and other public buildings. Work began on rebuilding St Pauls in 1675 but it was not finished till 1711.
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