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The Great Fire of London, Part 3

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment
Wenceslaus Hollar's Great Fire of London. Engraved By W. Hollar, c. 1666-1669. From the British Library. Shelfmark: Maps K. Top. 21.36.a

Wenceslaus Hollar’s Great Fire of London. Engraved By W. Hollar, c. 1666-1669. From the British Library. Shelfmark: Maps K. Top. 21.36.a

After the Great Fire ended, it was quite chaotic in London.  Samuel Pepys had noted how people moved their possessions by cart or by hand.  Apparently one of his neighbors left all of their wine in the street at night.  Perhaps they had hoped to move the wine by cart or just returned it?

Saturday 8 September 1666

“But I was much frighted and kept awake in my bed, by some noise I heard a great while below stairs; and the boys not coming up to me when I knocked. It was by their discovery of people stealing of some neighbours’ wine that lay in vessels in the streets. So to sleep; and all well all night.”

It was a few days after the fire ended, that Samuel Pepys began to return his valuables and other possessions to his house.  Of course he also dug his wine out from the pit.  This was not the last time wine was famously buried in the ground for safekeeping.  During the American Civil War, many families buried their prized Madeira collections in advance of General Sherman’s troops.

Friday 14 September 1666

“And so home, having this day also got my wine out of the ground again, and set in my cellar; but with great pain to keep the porters that carried it in from observing the money-chests there.”

The Great Fire of London, Part 2

September 3, 2016 Leave a comment
Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666. Rolle, Samuel. Image from the Museum of London.

Shlohavot, or, The burning of London in the year 1666. Rolle, Samuel. Image from the Museum of London.

On Monday, 3 September 1666, Samuel Pepys began sending away his valuable possessions by cart.  On Tuesday, 4 September 1666, Sir William Batten “not knowing how to remove his wine, did dig a pit in the garden, and laid it in there”.  Samuel Pepys took advantage of this pit and put some papers in there.  That evening he, along with Sir William Penn, dug another, now famous pit into which “put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese, as well as my wine and some other things.”

We do not know exactly what wine Samuel Pepys buried but we can get a sense.  The previous summer on 7 July 1665, he noted his cellar contained two “two tierces of Claret, two quarter casks of Canary, and a smaller vessel of Sack; a vessel of Tent, another of Malaga, and another of white wine”.  A tierce is two-thirds of a hogshead or one-third of a butt which holds some 35 imperial gallons of wine.  This pit was no small hole!

The Great Fire of London

September 2, 2016 Leave a comment
Leake's Survey of the City After the Great Fire of 1666 Engraved By W. Hollar, 1667. From the British Library. Shelfmark: Maps.Crace.Port.1.50

Leake’s Survey of the City After the Great Fire of 1666 Engraved By W. Hollar, 1667. From the British Library. Shelfmark: Maps.Crace.Port.1.50

Fires were common in 17th century London but none had ever caused as much destruction as the Great Fire of London which began 350 years ago to this day on September 2, 1666.  The fire broke out in a baker’s shop on a Sunday morning.  London was a very crowded city with houses made of wood.  By Monday morning some 300 houses had burned down.  The summer of 1666 was very hot and dry which only exacerbated the spread of the fire.  When it was extinguished four days after it began, almost 400 acres of London were destroyed including 13,000 houses and nearly 100 churches.

Samuel Pepys, the naval administrator and great diarist, provides us with a detailed account of the Great Fire.  Samuel Pepys enjoyed wine.  In 1663, he famously drank “a sort of French wine, called Ho Bryan” or Chateau Haut-Brion.  He kept a wine cellar of which he was concerned about during the fire.  Over the next several posts I will provide his wine related accounts during the Great Fire sourced from The Diary of Samuel Pepys.

Sunday 2 September 1666

” Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City….The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tarr, in Thames-street; and warehouses of oyle, and wines, and brandy, and other things.”