The great fire destroyed the old medieval city devastating over 400 acres, including over 13,000 houses and 87 out of 109 churches including the mighty medieval St. Paul’s Cathedral. Only a handful of buildings that Tudor Londoners would have known managed to escape the flames which devastated London in 1666.
All Hallows by the Tower:
All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London and was founded by the Abbey of Barking in 675 AD, which is over a thousand years ago and 300 years before the Tower of London was built. Located next to the Tower of London, the church has cared for numerous beheaded bodies brought for an often temporary burial following their executions on Tower Hill, including those of Thomas More and John Fisher.
The Great Fire started a few hundred yards from All Hallows church in nearby pudding Lane. Samuel Pepys, watched London burn from a tower of this church. He wrote in his famous diary, “I up to the top of Barking (all hallows) steeple, and there saw the saddest sight of desolation I ever saw…”
St Olav Hart Street:
The church of St. Olav was built in the 13th century and is where Samuel Pepys is buried. Sir William Penn, who was the father of William Penn who founded Pennsylvania ordered his men to blow up the houses surrounding St. Olav church to cause a firebreak. This quick thinking action saved All Hallows church too.
St Andrew Undershaft:
The church’s name comes from the shaft of the maypole that was set up each year opposite the church. In 1547 the maypole was seized by a mob and destroyed as a ‘pagan idol’. The first church on this site was built in 1147 and the current building dates from between 1520-1535.
The Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate
The Great Fire stopped just 50 yards from The Hoop and Grapes pub and it is one of the few timber framed buildings to have survived along with its two neighbours. Twisted and bent by time, the front of the building leans out and was only saved by extensive restoration. The name was originally the Hops and Grapes to show it sold both beer and wine. It is the city’s oldest pub built in 1593.
St Helens Bishopsgate
St Helen’s was the local parish church of William Shakespeare. It once formed part of the priory of St. Helen’s which was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. It was damaged by two IRA bombs which rocked the area in 1992 and 1993 killing three people. It is one of London’s great survivors.
The first documentary reference to a London Guildhall is dated 1128. The present building began construction in 1411 and completed in 1440.
The Guildhall has been used as a town hall for several hundred years, and is still the ceremonial and administrative centre of the City of London and its Corporation. It should not be confused with London’s City Hall, the administrative centre for Greater London. The site of Guildhall is also the location of a Roman Amphitheatre which is another incredible survivor.
Above: Images of the Guildhall
St Giles without Cripplegate:
The church survived the great fire because it was protected by the great city walls. ‘Without’ means outside of the city walls in old English. The church was badly damaged during the Blitz but it still has many features of the medieval church.
41 and 42 Cloth Fair
This is the only ‘house’ in the danger zone to have survived the fire. Built between 1597 and 1614 it was protected from the fire by the walls of the nearby St. Bartholomew’s priory. Cloth Fair is a street where, in medieval times, merchants gathered to buy and sell material during the Bartholomew Fair.
St Bartholomew’s Gatehouse and the Priory Church of Bartholomew the Great:
The timber framed gatehouse dates back to 1595 but the stonework below it is part of the original nave of St Bartholomew’s Priory from the 1200’s. It was protected from the Great Fire by the priory walls which in the same way protected the houses on Cloth Fair. The facade was at one point covered over but then rediscovered after bomb damage in the first World War.
The gatehouse leads to the Priory Church of Bartholomew the Great which was built in 1123, another survivor.
St Etheldredas Church
St Etheldredas is the oldest Catholic Church in England. The church was formerly part of Ely Palace. In 1531, Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon were guests at Ely Palace. They were attending a lavish feast given by the Bishop of Ely which is said to have lasted for five days. Henry VIII and Queen Katherine dined in separate rooms, this was one of the first public indications that Henry was thinking of taking a new wife.
The Inns of Court are the professional legal associations which all barristers (attorneys) in England and Wales must belong to. Built in 1585 Staple inn has an impressive Tudor facade which has been extensively restored.
The Tower of London:
The Tower has stood in London for nearly a thousand years. The square Norman keep (the white Tower) was built by William the conqueror in the 1070’s and Tudors called it ‘Caesar’s Tower’ because they thought it was of Roman origin. The Tower escaped the inferno of the Great Fire of London, the Blitz and an IRA bomb in 1974. It exploded in the White Tower killing a woman and maiming 41 others who were mainly children.
This list only includes the buildings that were threatened by the Great fire and not buildings such as Westminster Abbey which were not.