Time and History 1:00 A.M. The Great London Fire

A look at major and minor historical events around the clock such as the Great London Fire at one o'clock in the morning.


1:00 in the Morning

Sept. 2, 1666. The Great Fire of London started inside a baker's shop in Pudding Lane. It lasted five days, and nearly 80% of all the buildings within the London Wall were razed. According to the official report, 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, over 400 streets, and the enormous old St. Paul's Cathedral--one of the wonders of the medieval world--were in ruins. Out of London's 450 acres, only 75 remained untouched. Officials saved many buildings by blowing up rows of houses in order to make fire breaks.

Even before the blaze was contained, police and mobs of angry citizens searched for the culprits who set the fire. It was unsafe for foreigners or Roman Catholics to walk through the devastated city. Finally a French watchmaker from Rouen, Robert Hubert, confessed to the crime. Since he was not only a foreigner but also a Roman Catholic, the public's wrath was assuaged. One contemporary account of the disaster states that Hubert was "only accused upon his own confession; yet neither the judges nor any present at the trial did believe him guilty, but that he was a poor distracted wretch, weary of his life, and chose to part with it in this way." The Old Bailey jury, however, found that, "not having the fear of God before his eyes, but moved and led away by the instigation of the devil," Hubert had deliberately started the fire. After he was hanged, it was conclusively proved that he had not even arrived in London until two days after the fire broke out.

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