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   Chapter 28 PART II. No.28

The History of London By Walter Besant Characters: 4948

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


They must begin the world anew. For most of the merchants nothing was left to them but their credit-their good name: try to imagine the havoc caused by burning all the docks, warehouses, wharves, quays, and shops in London at the present day with nothing at all insured!

LONDON, AS REBUILT AFTER THE FIRE.

But the citizens of London were not the kind of people to sit down weeping. The first thing was to rebuild their houses. This done there would be time to consider the future. The Lord Mayor and the Aldermen took counsel together how to rebuild the City. They called in Sir Christopher Wren, lately become an architect after being astronomer at Cambridge, and Evelyn: they invited plans for laying out the City in a more uniform manner with wider streets and houses more protected from fire. Both Wren and Evelyn sent in plans. But while these were under consideration the citizens were rebuilding their houses.

They did not wait for the ashes to get cool. As soon as the flames were extinct and the smoke had cleared: as soon as it was possible to make way among the ruined walls, every man sought out the site of his own house and began to build it up again. So that London, rebuilt, was almost-not quite, for some improvements were effected-laid out with the same streets and lanes as before the fire. It was two years, however, before the ruins were all cleared away and four years before the City was completely rebuilt. Ten thousand houses were erected during that period, and these were all of brick: the old timbered house with clay between the posts was gone: so was the thatched roof: the houses were all of brick: the roofs were tiled: the chief danger was gone. At this time, too, they introduced the plan of a pavement on either side of smooth flat stones with posts to keep carts and waggons from interfering with the comforts of the foot passengers. It took much longer than four years to erect the Companies' Halls. About thirty of the churches were never rebuilt at all, the parishes being merged in others. The first to be repaired, not rebuilt, was that of St. Dunstan's two years after the fire: in four years more, another church was finished. In every year after this one or two: and the last of the City churches was not rebuilt till thirty one years after the fire.

COACH OF THE LATTER HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.

(From Loggan's 'Oxonia Illustrata.')

WAGGON OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.

(From Loggan's

'Oxonia Illustrata.')

It was at this time of universal poverty that the advantages of union was illustrated to those who had eyes to see. First of all, the Corporation had to find food-therefore work. Thousands were employed in clearing away the rubbish and carting it off so as to make the streets, at least, free for traffic. The craftsmen who had no work to do, were employed when this was done on the building operations. The quays were cleared, and the warehouses put up again, for the business of the Port continued. Ships came, discharged their cargoes, and waited for their freight outward bound. Then the houses arose and the shops began to open again. And the Companies stood by their members: they gave them credit: advanced loans: started them afresh in the world. Had it not been for the Companies, the fate of London after the fire would have been as the fate of Antwerp after the Religious Wars. But there must have been many who were ruined completely by this fearful calamity. Hundreds of merchants, and retailers, having lost their all must have been unable to face the stress and anxiety of making this fresh start. The men advanced in life; the men of anxious and timid mind; the incompetent and feeble: were crushed. They became bankrupt: they went under: in the great crowd no one heeded them: their sons and daughters took a lower place: perhaps they are still among the ranks into which it is easy to sink; out of which it is difficult to rise. The craftsmen were injured least: their Companies replaced their tools for them: work was presently resumed again: their houses were rebuilt and, as for their furniture, there was not much of it before the fire and there was not much of it after the fire.

The poet Dryden thus writes of the people during and after the fire:

Those who have homes, when home they do repair,

To a last lodging call their wandering friends:

Their short uneasy sleeps are broke with care

To look how near their own destruction tends.

Those who have none sit round where once it was

And with full eyes each wonted room require:

Haunting the yet warm ashes of the place,

As murdered men walk where they did expire.

The most in fields like herded beasts lie down,

To dews obnoxious on the grassy floor:

And while the babes in sleep their sorrow drown,

Sad parents watch the remnant of their store.

ORDINARY DRESS OF GENTLEMEN IN 1675.

(From Loggan's 'Oxonia Illustrata.')

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