The Museum of London has a terrific exhibition commemorating the Great Fire of 1666 on its 350th anniversary. I took loads of photos but they didn’t do the show justice. The story needs more than just a couple of photos or maybe they just need to be better photos. So I’ll apologize now for the very small number of pics in this post but I’ll also recommend that, if you can, see the exhibition for yourself.
I have a few images of the most graphic element in the show – a very clever relief map showing where the fire started relative to the size of London at the time and how much it spread. The map is shaped like a large loaf of bread to represent the baker’s shop where the fire started. The map blackens slowly where the fire spreads across the city over the course of several days. It began in the early hours of Sunday, 2 September and burned pretty much unchecked until it finally abated on Wednesday the 5th and was brought under control on the 6th. The three pictures compress the endless loop of the display but the constant growth of the black blotch of fire was so mesmerizing I ended up watching it several times.
The exhibit included relics recovered from the fire – furniture, glassware (most of this just pieces, either shattered or melted), metal elements from buildings, singed books, a charred tomb figure, even a wall fragment with several panes of stained glass from a pub, if my memory is correct.
Reproductions were displayed of proclamations from the king – Charles II as it happens (supposedly one of the guys in my family tree): one set up markets on the outskirts of the city to be supplied with food to keep people fed, another refuted a rumor that a French army was attacking the city to stop rioting and a third letter was issued to raise funds for the rebuilding of London.
Something I’ve always marveled at is the way exhibits mounted in the UK are both very interesting and fascinatingly comprehensive. I’m thinking of stuff beyond regular art museums which are always and everywhere more full and elaborate than my attention span can sustain nowadays. Instead, whether it’s a large museum with an important show like this one or just a group of rooms in a small city or town telling the story of the places’s beginnings and development to the current day, the Brits manage to present their history in a thorough and engaging way. Of course, my being an Anglophile and Europhile and history nerd may explain my enjoyment of these shows; not to mention that my own stories are often of the long-winded variety.
The Museum’s website shows the exhibition running through mid-April, 2017. If this subject sounds at all intriguing, plan to get over to the City and take in the show!