The Great Fire of London raged for three days in September 1666. The fire destroyed more than 70,000 homes and businesses, but claimed fewer than ten lives.

Painting by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

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  • On Sept. 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London started in a bakery on Pudding Lane, near London Bridge. The fire raged for four days, partially fed and spread by unpredictable winds. This was the worst fire in London’s history, destroying more than 80 percent of the city. The destruction included government buildings, theaters, churches (including the old St. Paul's Cathedral), and approximately 13,000 houses. Surprisingly, fewer than 20 deaths were recorded.

    Some historians say the Great Fire was bound to happen at some point. The city’s medieval wooden houses, some of which had walls covered in tar, were serious fire hazards. Houses were also constructed very close together (in order to save space) and firefighting wasn't as sophisticated as it is today.

    The Great Fire of London was only stopped as winds died down and residents used firebreaks to stop the blaze in its tracks.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    church Noun

    building used for spiritual worship and religious practices.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    construct Verb

    to build or erect.

    destruction Noun


    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    medieval Adjective

    having to do with the Middle Ages (500-1400) in Europe.

    sophisticated Adjective

    knowledgeable or complex.

    tar Noun

    dark, sticky petroleum product created from the decomposition of organic material such as wood.

    unpredictable Adjective

    unexpected or uncertain.