Come and learn more about London’s history while walking among famous monuments and gardens in London, thanks to the Fire and Blitz walk (created in 2016 by City of London guide Marion Blair).
What is the story?
There have been two major disasters in the history of the City of London – the Great Fire in 1666 when two thirds of the City was destroyed and the Blitz of 1940 when London was bombed for 57 consecutive days. On both occasions the Square Mile was rebuilt in the ashes of the destroyed buildings.
Many gardens have been created in former Wren churchyards or on disused and neglected bombsites. This walk, starting in the East of the City, follows the route of the Great Fire and ends in the West in the beautiful Temple gardens.
What happened during the Great Fire?
The Great Fire of London is one of the most well-known disasters in London’s history. It began on 2 September 1666 and lasted just under five days. The fire may have been caused by a spark from Thomas Farriner’s oven (bakery on Pudding Lane), falling onto a pile of fuel nearby. Then it spread easily because London was very dry after a hot summer and Pudding Lane was full of warehouses containing highly flammable things.
As the fire was spreading so quickly most Londoners concentrated on escaping, rather than fighting the fire. The best way to stop the fire was to pull down houses with hooks to make gaps or ‘fire breaks’. On Tuesday night the wind dropped and the firefighters finally gained control. By dawn on Thursday the fire was out.
One-third of London was destroyed and about 100,000 people were made homeless. 436 acres of London were destroyed, including 13,200 houses. It took about 50 years to rebuild the ruined city.
What happened during the Blitz?
The Blitz came to London on September 7th 1940 and lasted for several months, until May 1941. Known as ‘Black Saturday’, the first German air raid came was unexpected and the bombing attacks resulted in a large number of casualties – 420 people were killed and over 1600 seriously wounded. From this point, there were air raids almost every day.
Londoners took shelter in the Underground stations. In November 1940, other British cities were included in the raids, such as Coventry, Plymouth and Liverpool. In May 1941, Hitler began his attack on the Soviet Union, marking an end to the Blitz.
Sixty per cent of the 2,000,000 made homeless were in London and many historical and famous buildings were damaged including St. Paul’s Cathedral, The City Library in London, The British Museum, the Houses of Parliament, and St. James’s Palace.
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A GI of the 29th Infantry Division, 116th Infantry Regiment, entering St.Lô, Normandy, France, July, 1944. My relative, 1st Lieutenant Wallace Riddick Jr., served with the 29th Infantry Division, 116th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion "The Lost Battalion, D Company Heavy Weapons, during the bloody Normandy Campaign. He served from June 15th (The beginning of the horrendously costly "Battle of the Hedgerows") to September 1st, 1944, when he was killed by German artillery while on a little dirt road near La Trinité, Brest, Brittany, France. He had been wounded multiple times during his time fighting in the hedgerows and around St.Lô before he was killed on that little road around beautiful houses in Brittany. Not a day goes by where I don't think about his sacrifice, the sacrifice his comrades made, and the fighting he saw. During the Battle for St.Lô the 116th became cut off 1,000 yards east of St.Lô before being reconnected to Allied line by the 115th Infantry Regiment. These two regiments were some of the first to enter St.Lô which would later be known as "The Capital of Ruins" since 95% of the city had been razed to the ground and were a high number of casualties during its capture. Despite the destruction the city and it's liberators experinaced, the capture of St.Lô allowed American forces to breakthrough and escape the hedgerows which had slowed their advance to a crawl and cost so many lives. For every meter gained during the Normandy Campaign, 1 American soldier was killed in action. #brest #trinité #plouzane #WW2 #WWII #WorldWar2 #TheNormandyCampaign #rip #veteran #29thinfantrydivision #stlouis #Alabama #virginia #StLo #Normandy #city #militaryhistory
What will you see during the walk?
Some of the monuments and gardens you will see during your walk:
- St Olave Churchyard, a medieval church and survivor of the Great Fire, also badly bombed in WWII.
- The beautiful atmospheric garden of St Dunstans in the East
- The Monument of a gilded urn of flames atop a Doric column that symbolises the Great Fire of 1666.
- Two stunning City gardens – Rectory and Vestry House.
- Cleary Gardens, a former derelict bombsite transformed by an urban ‘guerilla gardener’ Joseph Brandis
- The National Firefighters Memorial
- Garden of St John Zachary, a beautiful garden created post-Blitz
- Brutalist towers of the Barbican Estate, created post WWII on an area flattened by bombs
You can find the tickets for Sunday 22nd of July here. £12 the ticket, meeting point at the Museum of London.
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