Gardening Treasures at Guildhall Library: Praise & Pudding – Works by William Curtis

Guildhall Library has been the home of the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners since 1891. In April of that year, the Company passed a resolution to grant funds for the purchase of books to develop a library of horticulture at Guildhall Library, for the use of City workers. The sum granted was five guineas and three guineas per year thereafter. 

The Company’s collection has offered horticultural reading pleasure to our library users ever since and now contains over five hundred volumes. To these are added volumes from our own London history collections, celebrating the history of gardening in the capital. 

William Curtis (1746–1799) was apprenticed as an apothecary.  He established a reputation as a botanist, which by the 1770s led to his appointment as Demonstrator of Plants and Director of the Society of Apothecaries’ Chelsea Physic Garden. Curtis’ own garden was at Lambeth, situated near the present Old Vic Theatre.

This image is from Curtis’ “Flora Londinensis: Containing a History of the Plants Indigenous to Great Britain, Illustrated by Figures of the Natural Size.”

In this lavishly illustrated series, Curtis attempted to document all the flowering species within a ten-mile radius of London. Later bound in six volumes, “Flora” was first published in seventy-two parts. Descriptions of the plants in each issue were accompanied by six copperplate prints by botanical artists such as Sydenham Edwards (1768– 1819), James Sowerby (1757–1822) and William Kilburn (1745–1818). Issues sold with uncoloured plates cost two shillings and six pence, one with hand coloured plates cost five shillings and “special care in colouring” could be purchased for seven shillings and sixpence per issue.

The first volume of “Flora Londinensis” was produced in 1777 but the final volume was published over 20 years later (1798). Despite acclaim for his achievement, only three hundred copies of “Flora” were printed owing to the expense of producing them.

The Gardeners’ Collection includes several botanical periodicals from the 18th & 19th centuries including Curtis’ “Botanical Magazine” which first appeared in 1787 and is still being published. 

Guildhall Library holds Curtis’ “Botanical Magazine” from the first volume in 1787 to Volume 114 in 1888.

This image is from the first volume, of the “Botanical Magazine” and depicts a scarlet bizarre carnation called Franklin’s Tartar, so named because the seedling was raised by a Mr Franklin of Lambeth Marsh.  It is by Sydenham Edwards who was talent spotted and introduced to Curtis when he was just nineteen years old. This was his first illustration for Curtis, but he became a key illustrator for the “Flora Londinensis” creating twenty-one of the plates (including Leontodon Taraxacum shown above). 

The “Botanical Magazine” was issued on the first day of the month priced at one shilling which included three hand coloured engravings so was more affordable than “Flora Londinensis.” 

Here is another illustration from the “Botanical Magazine” showing geranium peltatum or the ivy leafed geranium. The artist is James Sowerby.

No artist is named for this common passionflower which just states “Published by W Curtis, Botanic Garden, Lambeth Marsh” at the foot of the page.

Production of the two publications I have highlighted overlapped, but it was “The Botanical Magazine” which brought commercial success for Curtis. He is said to have commented that “Flora Londinensis” brought him praise but the “Botanical Magazine” brought him pudding!

Jeanie Smith, Assistant Librarian.

Tales from the Newall Dunn Collection: An Un-Vanquished London Tug

Laurence Dunn was an artist, writer and a collector of Merchant Navy photographs and ephemera.  The Newall Dunn Collection, now at Guildhall Library, includes many photographs taken by him personally.  These are frequently annotated in his small, neat handwriting and are of great use to us in identifying both ships and settings.

This photograph is from the “London Tugs” folder to be found in the large images section of the collection.  It shows the single screw tug “Vanquisher.”  Built for the Elliott Steam Tug Company she was launched in 1955 and placed under the management of Ship Towage (London) Ltd.  She was later owned by London Tugs Ltd. and by the Alexandra Towing Company Ltd.  Diesel powered, she was 294 gross tons and her dimensions were 113’ 3” x 28’ 9” x 12’ 7”.

“Vanquisher” is described by J. E. Reynolds in his book “Thames Ship Towage 1933-1992”

When new she created quite an impression on people seeing her for the first time. With the extra deck she had, the “Vanquisher” towered over the rest of the river fleet when laying alongside them.  Her accommodation was far superior to the rest of the tugs: she had six cabins with maximum two to a berth, and two toilets with baths and showers.– a big step forward this when most of the other crews were living seven men to one communal cabin, with a coal (bogie) fire in the centre for warmth and a galvanised bucket to wash in. (page 55)

Luxury indeed!  Here is one of Laurence Dunn’s own photographs of “Vanquisher” and on the reverse Dunn has written:

In the act of sinking – the Gravesend tug VANQUISHER, one of the several which had been taking the JERVIS BAY out of Tilbury Lock – when she was caught beam-on and pulled right over.  No lives lost.  An after dusk picture! By Laurence Dunn.

This dramatic incident on the Thames, between our tug and an O.C.L. container vessel, happened on the 8th January 1976.  Reynolds tells us “Fortunately, all the crew managed to get out of the tug and were picked up from the water by local waterman, Mr Hills, in his boat.”  “Vanquisher” was raised the following day and was back in service by June of the same year.

The Newall Dunn Collection forms part of our internationally important resources for Merchant Navy history but is also proving a useful source for London and Thames history. Staff and volunteers have been busy cataloguing and conserving the collection ready for you to explore and enjoy in the coming months and years. 

If you or your forebears worked on the Thames tugs and have stories to share we would love to hear from you at

Jeanie Smith, Assistant Librarian.

A Celebrated London Tug

Whilst working from home during lockdown, I have been sorting and listing some images from the Newall Dunn Collection.  This collection, gifted to us in 2018, is one of the world’s most comprehensive merchant shipping photographic and reference collections.  The collection offers at least 500,000 images and photographs of merchant ships from the 1880s until 2000.

One of the envelopes I was drawn to was marked “Challenge” and I opened it with some interest.  Inside was a small collection of photographs, newspaper cuttings and copy letters about a tug of that name which has proved fascinating.

One of our collectors, Laurence Dunn, clearly had a special interest in this vessel and had campaigned to save her during the 1970s which probably accounts for the dedicated folder on her containing drafts of articles and letters.

“Challenge” was built in Aberdeen in 1931 by Alexander Hall & Co. for the Elliott Steam Tug Company.  This company was founded in the mid nineteenth century and was originally on the Commercial Road (London, E1).  It was soon popularly known as Dick and Page Tugs after two key partners in the business but was formally named Elliott Steam Tug Company from 1897.

So why is “Challenge” important and why is she now part of the National Historic Fleet?  She was the last surviving steam tug to have worked on the Thames having spent her entire working life, of 41 years, on the River.  Here is an image of her I found in the folder from 1932.

Annotated “Challenge & Tormilind off Gravesend 10.9.32”

She was one of few tugs to remain on the River throughout World War Two, working alongside this vessel of the Gamecock Steam Towing Company Ltd. named “Crested Cock.” 

“Challenge’s” war years put her at the centre of key events in history as she was one of the “Little Ships” which went to evacuate troops from Dunkirk as part of “Operation Dynamo” in May 1940.  In 1942 she helped tow the Maunsell anti-aircraft forts into the Thames Estuary and later towed parts of the Mulberry Harbours in the preparations for D-Day.

So perhaps it is surprising that by 1971 she was laid up at Gravesend and was likely to be sold for scrap.  Thankfully, her then owners London Tugs Ltd.  agreed to wait to see if she could be rescued and in 1973 Taylor Woodrow purchased her for their collection of historic vessels with Thames associations.  They planned to moor her at their new development at St Katharine’s Dock and volunteers came forward to help save and restore her.

“Challenge” was towed to her new home by the tug “Sun XXIV” in October 1973 and she spent the next nineteen years there.  Sadly by 1993 she was under threat of the scrapheap again but was saved by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust (D.L.S.R.T).  Her first stop for much needed restoration by volunteers was at Tilbury Dock and then later on at Southampton. 

More recently she was due to be moved (under new ownership) to Trinity Buoy Wharf but the difficulties brought by the pandemic meant this fell through.  She has been purchased and saved once again and is about to begin the next of her nine lives on the East Coast.  You can keep up to date with developments on the D.L.S.R.T’s website

We have images of other Thames tugs which I hope to share with you when life returns to normal.  In the meantime, if you or your forebears worked on the Thames tugs and have stories to share we would love to hear from you at

Jeanie Smith

Assistant Librarian & Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection.


The first recorded English lottery was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I in 1566 and was later drawn in 1569. The prizes consisted of a mixture of money, silver plate and tapestry, depending on how lucky the ticket holder was. Each ticket holder won a prize, with the total of the prizes equalling to the sum raised. The tickets sold were essentially interest free loans to the government. Eventually the government sold the rights to the lottery tickets to brokers who eventually became modern day stockbrokers. It was common practice for stockbrokers to sell shares in a ticket for those who could not afford the full amount.

The English State Lottery lasted from 1569 until 1826. Its popularity had been decreasing for a while before it was cancelled by the government in 1826 after increasing pressure from Parliament. The draw was initially supposed to have been drawn on the 18th July however, not enough tickets were sold so the date was pushed back to 18th October.

Guildhall Library holds a collection of lottery tickets from the 18th and 19th Century as well as other material relating to lotteries.

The Death of Thomas Becket

The 29th December 2020 marks the 850th anniversary of the death of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered by four of Henry II soldiers. It has been debated whether Henry commanded the soldiers to kill Becket or they took matters into their own hands after hearing the King complain about his troublesome priest.

Becket was the son of a London merchant family and was born in Cheapside at some point between 1119 and 1120. He was made Lord Chancellor in 1155 after being recommended by the then Archbishop of Canterbury Theobald of Bec in whose household Becket worked. Becket quickly became friends with Henry so much so, that Henry sent his eldest son to live with Becket, a custom popular with nobility at that time. Following the death of Theobald in 1162, Becket was offered the position of Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry, who hoped that his friend would help him to control the church.

Upon his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, Becket quickly changed sides and often opposed the King in matters relating to the church. Tensions rose considerably during the Constitutions of Clarendon, which were a set of legislations authorised by Henry to restrict the powers held by church courts, specifically the way the church courts dealt with criminal charges against the clergy. Becket and Henry argued constantly during the debate, with Becket being exiled at one point and the Pope intervening in the hope they could come to an arrangement. Tensions reached boiling point when Henry crowned his son King of England (a common practice during the middle ages) without Becket who as Archbishop of Canterbury was supposed to carry out the ceremony. Becket quickly excommunicated those who had participated in the ceremony, enraging Henry. A lengthy argument began in Normandy in the hope that Becket would reverse the excommunications but sensing the King’s anger Becket fled to England. This resulted in the king, supposedly, uttering the infamous phrase ‘will no one rid me of this turbulent priest’!

Four knights overheard the King’s grievance and decided to take matters into their own hands. They followed Becket to Canterbury where they first requested that he accompany them to Winchester where he could explain his actions. The four knights left their weapons and armour outside the Canterbury cathedral before interrogating Becket who refused to leave. The knights left to quickly retrieve their swords before returning to the cathedral where they brutally murdered becket. The knights fled the scene and were excommunicated by the Pope, who ordered them to serve as knights in the Holy Land for fourteen years. Henry himself went on a pilgrimage to Canterbury where he publicly paid penance for Becket’s death by allowing each of the bishops to strike him five times with a rod and each of the monks at the cathedral gave him three.

While preparing his body for burial, the monks found that Becket was wearing a hair shirt made of coarse animal hair, a sign of penance. This gave rise to the belief that Becket died a martyr and a few years later he was canonised as a saint by Pope Alexander III. On the 50th anniversary of his death his remains were removed and placed into a shrine where many travelled on pilgrimage to see. During the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 the shrine was destroyed alongside Becket’s remains.

Guildhall Library Virtual Open Day

On Tuesday the 20th of October, we will be hosting a virtual open day for Guildhall Library.  If you are a new follower of Guildhall Library who has recently joined us because of our online events, this will showcase some of our collections and let you know more about the library and what we have to offer. If you are a long term user of the library, there will be a chance to learn about some of our more recently acquired collections.   

There will be a schedule of events and talks throughout the day and you are welcome to attend as many as you like. The talks will cover some of the topics that we usually hold at the library but because of current restrictions are able to do online instead.
We hope to also have repeated sessions throughout the day letting you know what to expect when we re-open and how our service will be run to make sure everyone stays safe under current Covid-19 conditions. Join us as we celebrate Guildhall Library’s 595th Birthday!

Book FREE online open day events via:

If you have any questions about booking, or are not able to book online, please contact us at

We will post an update to our re-open plans, as soon as possible, on the new Guildhall Library website:

Thank you, Stay Safe and Keep Well.
Guildhall Library Team

Guildhall Library Virtual Open Day Schedule
10.00am Visiting Guildhall Library
10:30am History and Treasures of Guildhall Library
11.30am The Great Plague
1:00pm Visiting Guildhall Library
2:00pm Family History at Guildhall Library
3:00pm Your Library Discussion Group
4:00pm Adventures at Sea
6:00pm Visiting Guildhall Library
7:00pm Whittington and his cat

Online Event – Visiting Guildhall Library

Time: 10am, 1pm & 6pm
This session is aimed at letting people know what to expect when they visit the Library. We will let you know how things have changed temporarily because of COVID. What we have done to make visitors and staff safe.  It will go over ordering in advance, booking a place, arriving at the library and what to do with material when you’ve finished. Join us to learn more.

Online Event – History and Treasures of Guildhall Library

Time: 10.30am
The first library at Guildhall was around 1425, when a “new house or library” was formed under the terms of the will of “the rich and pious merchant” Richard Whittington. Join Librarian Ann Martin to learn about the history of Guildhall Library and to view some of the Library’s treasures.

Online Event – The Great Plague 1665

Time: 11.30am
The Great Plague wiped out almost 100,000 people in the City of London in 1665. In this short talk, Assistant Librarian Isabelle Chevallot will explore a variety of original sources and contemporary accounts of the Great Plague of 1665 held at Guildhall Library.

Online Event – Family History at Guildhall Library

Time: 2pm
This session will let you know what physical and digital resources we have at Guildhall Library that can help you in your search to discover your family history. Led by Assistant Librarian Melanie Strong who will show you what we can help you find out about your ancestor’s life in London. Topics will include Poll books, apprenticeships, and trade directories.  The session will also include how to access some of our collections from home.

Online Event – Your Library Discussion Group

Time: 3pm
Following on from Black Lives Matter we’d like to hear from you about ways we could improve the library’s collections and events to show a more inclusive history of London. London has one of the most diverse and thriving populations in the UK and we wish to celebrate that. This session will look at ways we can strengthen our collections with works by and about BAME and LGBT people.  If you have a suggestion for us on anything from a book recommendation to a speaker you’d like to see us hold a talk by, please join and let us know. If you are unable to attend this session please don’t hesitate to email us with your suggestion and comments.

Online Event – Adventures At Sea

Time: 4pm
Explore Guildhall Library’s rich and varied resources for Merchant Navy history from the Lloyd’s Marine and Newall Dunn Collections with Librarian Jeanie Smith.  Our internationally valued maritime collections offer tales of ships, their voyages, bravery and misfortune.  Join us to discover more.

Online Event – Whittington and His Cat

Time: 7pm
The rags-to-riches story of a poor boy coming to London and making his fortune, with a little help from a feline friend, is a familiar tale. Join Librarian Ann Martin to look at how the tale has been passed down generations of adults and children through books, ballads and pantomimes in Guildhall Library’s collections.

The Nuremberg Chronicle 1493

Printed in 1492 by author Hartmann Schedel, The Nuremberg Chronicle is a summary of world history starting from creation to the last judgement. It features a number of stunning woodcuts depicting many townscapes, biblical scenes and historical figures. The Chronicle was first published in Latin before being translated to German later that year. It has several titles, the English being The Nuremberg chronicle named after the place in which it was printed, and in German it is known as Die Schedelsche Weltchronik (Schedel’s World History) after its author. In Latin it is known as Liber Chronicarum (Book of Chronicles).  

The Nuremberg Chronicle is best known for its incredibly detailed woodcuts of many towns and cities across Europe which include Nuremberg, Constantinople, Florence, Paris and Alexandria. The Image below is taken from one of our three copies and features the city of Paris.  Each copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle is unique. There was no strict rule in which colours were to be used to colour each woodcut, so the colours and patterns tend to vary from each edition. Specialist shops were tasked with the colouring of the prints.  Several copies are uncoloured, and some have prints missing, as it was common for owners to remove some of the more intricate prints and sell them on as decorative pieces.  

Our copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle form part of our Incunabula collection which features 79 unique items. Incunabula are any printed materials which were printed in Europe before 1501. Two of our copies are written in Latin and one is in German. They include coloured woodcuts in various stages of completion. An image taken from the Nuremberg chronicle is currently on display in our Photowall which celebrates some of our most iconic collections and items. Below are a series of images taken from one of our copies of The Nuremberg Chronicle.

The Royal Exchange

Royal Exchange

View of the Royal Exchange from ‘Select Views of London‘ by John Buonarotti Papworth, 1816

First founded by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566, the Royal Exchange has been at the centre of the City of London for over 450 years. The Exchange was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571 and awarded the ‘Royal’ title, which enabled it to sell alcohol and valuable goods. The Exchange was modelled after the Bourse in Antwerp, where Gresham had been working on behalf of the Crown. The original purpose of this Bourse was to be London’s first stock trading centre. In 1660 two additional floors were added for retail shops, essentially creating London’s first “shopping centre”. During the Great Fire of London in 1666 the first exchange burnt down alongside two thirds of the City.

A second exchange was designed in a Baroque style by Edward Jerman and opened in 1669. Rooms were let out as offices for Lloyds of London and in 1838 a fire began in those offices which resulted in the second Exchange burning down as well! The only salvageable remains from the second Exchange was a statue of King Charles II. A competition to design the third and current exchange was organised which the architect Sir William Tite won. The new Exchange was opened by Queen Victoria on the 28th October 1884, but trading did not start until the beginning of 1885. Just before the opening in 1884 a cast bronze statue was unveiled of Arthur Wellesley the 1st Duke of Wellington. The bronze used to make the statue came from enemy cannons captured during the Duke’s war campaigns. The London Troops memorial was unveiled behind the Wellington statue in 1920, commemorating those who fought during World War 1 and World War 2.


The London Troops Memorial  

The Exchange was spared damage during the London Blitz in 1941, however Bank Interchange was severely damaged during the air raids. The Exchange remained in disuse until 1950s where it was used as The Mermaid Theatre, which relocated to Blackfriars in 1959. In the 1980s the London International Financial Futures Exchange moved in. In 2001 the Exchange was extensively remodelled into the luxury shopping centre it is today.   

IMG_0896 (002)

The Coronation Ceremony of King George IV

King George 4 close up

King George IV in his coronation robes

Following the death of his father King George III on the 29th January 1820, the then Prince Regent succeeded his father as King George IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. By the time of his coronation George was 57 and had been ruling as Prince Regent for almost 10 years following the deterioration of his fathers mental health. As a Prince, George was known for his extravagant tastes and exuberant lifestyle. His coronation in 1821 was an excellent example of the new King’s appetite for self-indulgence.   

The Prince spared no expense for his coronation which took place on the 19th July 1821. He spent approximately £243,00 on the ceremony which equates to about £21,751,000 in today’s money! In comparison his father spent only £10,000 on his coronation. A significant proportion of the cost was spent on were the costumes worn by the participants in the procession. Each item was an Elizabethan or Stuart styled piece made up of red, blue and gold fabrics. George’s costume was an extravagant 16-foot silk, velvet and fur robe which had to be carried by page boys, who were instructed to spread out when carrying his robe so that the spectators could view its elaborate embroidery, as he made his way through the procession. He also wore a brown curled wig and a black cap with ostrich and heron feathers  

Arthur Duke of Wellington

Arthur Duke of Wellington

A notable missing person from his coronation was his wife Caroline of Brunswick from whom he had long been estranged from for many years following the birth of their only daughter Charlotte. He had sort a divorce for many years but was advised against it as it would bring to light some of his own adulterous relationships. Instead he bared Caroline from attending the coronation and from being crowned Queen. She did attempt to gain entry to Westminster Abbey but found all of the entrances blocked by guards who were given strict instructions not to permit her entry. The only women present at the coronation were the flower girls, who by tradition sprinkled herbs and flowers along the processional route to ward off pestilence and disease 

HRH Leopold Duke of Saxony 2.5

Leopold Duke of Saxony, the husband of King George’s daughter Charlotte

To celebrate the new King’s coronation John Whittaker, a printer and publisher, created an illustrated book in 1823. He commissioned brothers James and Frances Stephanoff to create the drawings which were taken from the coronation procession. Shortly after publication Whittaker became bankrupt due to the high costs in producing the book as the printing method used real gold to emboss the illustrations. Later in 1837 the book was republished by George Nayler and Henry Bohn. Guildhall Library holds copies of both books which are available to consult in the library (proof of ID required) 

The Great Fire of London 1666

AN 9.1.18 close up

On Saturday the 1st September 1666 the City of London was a buzz of activity, with traders selling their goods in the marketplaces and shops around London, carriages pulling goods in and out of the city as well as providing transportation for the rich who were off to spend their money in the fashionable shops along Cheapside, and the poor begging on the streets hoping to make enough money for a hearty meal. The medieval cobbled streets of the city twisted around a variety of timber structures, many with additional jetties which protruded over the sides with thickly thatched roofs. Even the bridges across the Thames were covered with these wooden structures. Stone buildings were rare in the City as they were often too expensive to build so only the richest districts could afford the expense. Five days later London had become a burnt-out shell of a City, being nothing but ash and smouldering timbers 

The blaze began in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane at some point between 12 and 1 am on Sunday 2nd September. It isn’t known exactly how the fire started or who started it but there were many rumours spread around London at the time. The most popular theory was that it was a deliberate act by French or Dutch soldiers who wanted to put an end to the Second AngeloDutch war, or as revenge for the English attack on the Vlie estuary in which the Dutch village of West-Terschelling was set on fire. That particular fire was known as Holmes’ Bonfire and was named after Admiral Robert Holmes who orchestrated the attack.  

A French watch maker named Robert Hubert falsely confessed to starting the blaze and was arrested. In his first statement he alleged that he started the fire in Westminster, but the flames never reached there. In a second statement he claimed that he had started the fire in Pudding Lane by throwing a grenade through a window, but this statement only came after it was revealed that the fire had started there. There were several misgivings about his fitness to plead, as he was crippled and likely had some sort of mental illness. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to death and hanged a day later at Tyburn. It was later discovered that he wasn’t in London at the time of the fire, he had only arrived in England two days after the fire had started, meaning that it was impossible for him to have started it. He has been widely viewed as a political scapegoat, used only to try to calm down the enraged public who had already started to blame foreigners and refugees for the fire 

 There had been a series of small fires in the City before the Great Fire, the last appearing in 1632, but they had been dealt with quickly through the use of fire hooks, used to drag down any nearby timber buildings. This created fire blocks which would prevent the fire from spreading as it had nothing to burn. The weather was a large driving force in making the fire so intense. For the last year London had experienced a major drought following two years of rainy summers, the timber buildings had dried out and were an immediate fire hazard. A strong east wind helped spread the fire quickly. There were large amounts of flammable items stored in warehouses across the City (which included gunpowder, tar, and oil) that increased the fire’s potency. 

The ineffective and disorderly judgements from the Lord Mayor Thomas Bloodworth also greatly impacted the spread of the conflagration, as he greatly misjudged its magnitude as well as refused to follow the orders from King Charles to tear down several buildings and create fire blocks. He likely prevented the demolition of any nearby buildings out of fear from receiving complaints from the owners! His failure to take measures to prevent the spread of the fire caused it to greatly intensify into a fire storm, which had its own wind system, increasing the spread and heat of the fire. It got so hot in fact that the lead roof of St Pauls melted and became a molten stream on the street below! 

Much of what we know about the events for the Great Fire come from the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn both of whom were present in London during the fire. The most in-depth description came from Pepys who famously mentioned how, in haste, he buried some of his expensive wine and cheese in his garden in the hope that if the fire spread to his house, he would be able to retrieve these expensive goods from the burnt remains. Luckily for Pepys the fire never reached his home in Seething lane.  

Many believe that the Great Fire is the reason that the Great Plague vanished from London as the fire burnt the diseased rodents and contaminated buildings. However, the vast majority of the poor (who were the most likely to have or carry the disease) lived in the slums outside the City which were not damaged in the fire. Also, the number of plague victims had fallen substantially, to only a handful of cases in 1666 so in all likelihood the plague had died out on its own. However, it is possible that the fire helped prevent it from reappearing as the dirty, rotten, old and potentially contaminated timber buildings were destroyed and the majority of London was rebuilt using stone and brick. 

On the order of King Charles, several radical new designs for the city were created. Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, John Evelyn and architect Valentine Knight all came up with designs, mostly in a baroque style, for the new city. These plans were scrapped after it proved to be too difficult to implement, due to some complexities in land ownership; so, the original design of the city was re-used but the majority of buildings were redesigned to be made of brick and stone instead of flammable timber. Included in this rebuild of the City was the new design for St Pauls and fifty additional churches all by Sir Christopher Wren. 

A memorial to the fire (called The Monument) was constructed between 1671 to 1677. It was designed jointly by Sir Christopher Wren and philosopher Robert Hooke. The original plaque on the monument included an inscription which blamed the Pope and Catholics for the fire. This was removed following the Catholic Emancipation in 1830. Another monument known as the ‘Golden Boy of Pye Corner’ was erected in Smithfield which blamed the fire on the sin of Gluttony! 

 A contemporary image from one of our books featuring the scene of the Great Fire is currently on display on our ‘Treasures’ photowall which celebrates some of our iconic items including Shakespeare’s First Folio, The Nuremburg Chronicle and 18th Century Lottery Tickets!