London re-enacts Great Fire of 1666

A 120m-long model of the 17th-century London skyline being set alight on the River Thames on Sunday to mark the 1666 Great Fire of London. The blaze paved the way for the building of today's modern metropolis.
A 120m-long model of the 17th-century London skyline being set alight on the River Thames on Sunday to mark the 1666 Great Fire of London. The blaze paved the way for the building of today's modern metropolis.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • A massive wooden replica of 17th-century London has been torched on the River Thames to mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, which paved the way for the building of the modern city.

Onlookers crowded along the river that winds through the British capital to watch as the 120m-long wooden model was set alight on Sunday.

Spectators snapped photographs as the flames devoured the replica buildings floating on the water.

The torching of the model of London - as it stood on Sept 2, 1666 - was executed by US "burn artist" David Best and live-streamed online.

The Great Fire started in Thomas Farrinor's bakery in Pudding Lane and raged until Sept 5, destroying 80 per cent of the mostly wooden, walled inner city. An estimated 70,000 of the 80,000 residents were rendered homeless by the disaster.

By the time the fire was extinguished, a total of 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches and St Paul's Cathedral had been destroyed.

The London of today, with its characteristic English Baroque architecture in grey Portland stone, was built from the ashes of the wooden city, although the old street layout was retained to respect property rights.

Recreating the fire was one of a series of events to mark the anniversary of the inferno, celebrating the city's ability to rebuild and thrive.

Mr Nick Bodger, head of cultural and visitor development for the City of London, said the capital's resilience - seen again during the 1940s World War II Blitz - helped it rebuild and survive.

"Three hundred and fifty years ago, when embers from a baker's oven sparked one of the most catastrophic events the capital has ever witnessed, London's economic prowess almost came to a fiery end," he said.

"A renewed sense of purpose saw the great city we enjoy today rise from those ashes, develop and thrive."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'London re-enacts Great Fire of 1666'. Print Edition | Subscribe