Newest Review: ... The area immediately around the Monument is pedestrianised. As you look at it from the outside you will see the copper orb with flames... more
A Monument to disaster.
The Monument (London)
Member Name: salgirl
The Monument (London)
Date: 20/06/01, updated on 26/01/05 (65 review reads)
Advantages: Great views over the Thames and City of London
Disadvantages: A long sweaty climb
"In corners and upon steeples, and between churches and houses, as far as we could see up the city, a most horrid, bloody, malicious flame, not like the flame of an ordinary fire." - Samuel Peyps' eyewitness statement about the Great Fire of London in 1666.
It started apparently on Sunday night, 2nd September, in a bakehouse down Pudding Lane, near what was then East Smithfield. London was a mainly wood-constructed city, but even the stone buidlings offered little resistance to the inferno.
Now please forgive this huge chunk taken from an old book that I have, but although I'm middle-aged, even I wasn't around back then to be able to relate anything meaningful on the fire itself...
*Taken from Walter Thornbury's 'Old London' -
"On the Monday night of the fire, Mr. Evelyn described the whole north of the city on fire, the sky ablaze for ten miles around and the scaffolds around St. Paul's in flames. The following day he saw the stones of St. Paul's flying like grenades, the melting lead running in streams down the streets, the very pavements too hot for the feet, and the approaches too blocked for any help to be applied. A Westminster boy named Taswell, quoted by Dean Milman from 'Camden's Miscellany', has also sketched the scene. On Monday, the 3rd, from Westminster he saw, about eight o'clock, the fire burst forth and before nine he could read by the light of the blaze. The boy at once set out for St. Paul's, resting by the way upon Fleet Bridge, being almost faint with the intense heat of the air. The bells were melting and the vast avalanches of stones were pouring from the walls. Near the east end, he had found the body of an old woman, who had cowered there, burned to a coal. Taswell also relates that the ashes of the books kept in St. Faith's were blown as far as Eton and Windsor."
The damage to the city was appalling. Over 400 acres was de
vastated, destroying about 460 streets that contained 89 churches and 13,000 houses, and the many lives of those who were crammed into this space. The fire raged for 5 days.
Sir Christopher Wren was responsible for the design of the huge column that was erected to commemorate the disaster, and worked in conjunction with Robert Hooke. It took six years to finish, and it's said that the height of 202 ft corresponds to the fact that the fire broke out 202ft to the east of the column.
I visited the tower many years back, but it was impressive enough for the memory to remain with me, and I can well remember having to control my fear of heights in order to climb up over 300 steps to reach the top. You have to be reasonably fit in order to do this, and when I went there weren't any aids to making the trip up comfortable, like a rail to cling on to as you spiral round inside. I must have looked like a sweaty female version of Spiderman as I inched up the stairs with my back flat against the walls. I seem to remember that there was no central column to the staircase which meant that you could see all the way down to the bottom through this hole, but maybe that was something that evolved through my nightmares over the years...
From the outside, the Monument is rather beautiful and graceful. The column is in the Doric style of greek architecture, which means that it is simple in design and fluted. The very top has a gilded urn that holds a globe rising from the flames, and below this the square viewing platform runs around it which offers staggering views over the city, and on a clear day in between the larger buildings of today, much further beyond.
There are 3 panels on the high square base that record the story of the fire and the subsequent rebuilding of London, but be warned, it's in Latin. The fourth side has a relief showing King Charles II offering protection to the ruined city, (which brings the words 'stable door
39;, 'horse' and 'bolted' to mind), but the bit I remember most was being told that a further inscription on the pedestal had had to be removed in the early 1800's because it ascribed the fire to the "Popish faction". It never fails to amaze me what people will blame simple accidents on.
The Monument can be found close to London Bridge and the Tower of London, in Fish Street Hill, EC4. Monument underground station is close by.
I paid a couple of quid when I went, but sadly I have no idea what the charge would be today. However, I could quite honestly say that whatever it was, it would be worth it.