By meriel jeater on 27 Feb 2013
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to have lived through the Great Fire of London in 1666?
There are famous eyewitness accounts like the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn but perhaps less well known are the examples of personal correspondence concerning the Great Fire. The Museum of London has four such letters in its collection. Each letter describes what is happening in London and reveals some interesting details about people’s experiences of the fire. Records of the letters have been available on our Collections Online database for a while now but recently we have added transcripts of the letters to the website so that people can read them in full. Here is a taster of what you can expect:
In this letter Thomas says that King Charles II has personally helped to fight the fire and has been roaming around London with a bag of money giving out rewards to the fire fighters.
Here Henry describes how he has lost a trunk of his relative’s belongings while trying to rescue it from the fire. The trunk was stolen when it was taken to the fields outside of London but Henry is trying to track it down. Theft of property during the chaos of the Great Fire was such a serious problem that the king was forced to declare an amnesty on stolen goods to encourage thieves to return things that they had taken.
Thomas was away from London during the fire so his brother is writing to explain what has happened, saying ‘’I am not able to express without horror the great progress of the fire’. He breaks the news that Thomas’s rooms in London have been destroyed but his books have been saved.
A letter from James Hicks, the London postmaster, to the postmasters between London, Chester and Holyhead
James writes to let them know that that any government correspondence should be redirected to him at the Red Lion in Barnet, where he has escaped from the fire. He says that he and his family are well ‘notwithstanding great loss and sufferings by the distraction of our office’.
These letters give us important insights into the different ways in which people were affected by the Great Fire and the impact that it had on their day-to-day lives.