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Memorial

The lost plaque commemorating the Great Fire The Monument

Plaque: The lost plaque commemorating the Great Fire

Erection date: 2016

Inscription

{below a copy of part of an etching showing Old St Paul's engulfed in flames:}

East of this tablet on 2nd September 1666 was the baker's oven & woodpile where "began that dredfull fire, which is described & perpetuated on & by the neighbouring pillar".

The words used on a plaque here in 1681 - since 1887 beneath the cobbles of Monument Street, marked again to commemorate three hundred & fifty years since the fire began.

This plaque appears to be that oddest of things, a plaque commemorating a lost plaque. The meaning of the inscription is not clear but we found some clarity at British History Online:

"The Great Fire of 1666 broke out at the shop of one Farryner, the king's baker, 25, Pudding Lane. The following inscription was placed by some zealous Protestants over the house, when rebuilt:—"Here, by the permission of Heaven, Hell broke loose upon this Protestant city, from the malicious hearts of barbarous priests, by the hand of their agent, Hubert, who confessed and on the ruins of this place declared the fact for which he was hanged—viz., that here begun that dreadful fire which is described on and perpetuated by the neighbouring pillar {i.e. The Monument}, erected anno 1681, in the mayoralty of Sir Patience Ward, Kt." This celebrated inscription (says Cunningham), set up pursuant to an order of the Court of Common Council, June 17th, 1681, was removed in the reign of James II., replaced in the reign of William III., and finally taken down, "on account of the stoppage of passengers to read it."Entick, who made additions to Maitland in 1756, speaks of it as "lately taken away."

So it seems there was a plaque, now lost, (blaming the Catholic Hubert for the fire) erected 1681, removed sometime 1685-8, replaced 1689-1702, removed c.1750. The plaque in our photo refers to the lost plaque being beneath the cobbles since 1887 but offers no explanation of where it had been between 1750 and 1887, nor what caused it to be buried. 1887 was the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee but we can't imagine burying plaques was part of the festivities.

2021: At MummyTravels we found a photo of the plaque, on display at the Museum of London, not "beneath the cobbles" at all. We must visit the Museum and see what they say about it.

Site: The Monument (4 memorials)

EC3, Monument Street

Built 1671-7, designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke as a monument to the Great Fire and as a scientific instrument. Each step is exactly 6 inches high. The very top of the edifice has a hinged lid and the spiral staircase surrounds a void (rather than a solid shaft) so the whole height can be used by a giant pendulum, or as a telescope, or (and who does't want to do this?) for dropping things.

'Hooke’s laboratory' is a room below ground not normally open to the public but Londonist (who have an 'access all areas' pass) have been there.

The column is 62m high, and it stands that same distance from the supposed site of the start of the fire.

The column stands on a plinth, three faces of which carry Latin texts with translations. This all amounts to a lot of text but the inscriptions are not very photogenic so we have treated each pair of faces as a memorial: west and north together, east and south together.

In all this verbiage we draw your attention to the reference to "Popish frenzy" at the end of the (English version) of the inscription on the north face. This is explained at The Monument, which is an excellent resource.

2016: Great post from Londonist re The Monument suicides showing fascinating contempory newspaper reports with quite surreal drawings.

In George Gissing's 1894 novel 'In the Year of Jubilee' a young man shows a lady, whom he does not know very well, around the City, in which he works, and takes her to the top of the Monument, where they enter into a sort of engagement, dependent on the success of his career.

2021: The City of London must have had some money sloshing around - they've installed a few random plaques in the paved area at the base of The Monument, two of which are commemorative. We noticed them in 2021 but they could have been there for years. The area was pedestrianised in 2006 and refurbished 2007-9.

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This section lists the subjects commemorated on the memorial on this page:
The lost plaque commemorating the Great Fire

Information Subjects commemorated

Old St Paul's Cathedral

From Engineering Timelines : "The present St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Si...

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Great Fire of London

Started on a Sunday morning. After 4 days the destruction included: - an area...

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This section lists the other memorials at the same location as the memorial on this page:
The lost plaque commemorating the Great Fire

Information Also at this site

Fish Street Hill plaque

First known as Brigge Street, then New Fishe Street, Fish Street Hill has bee...

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The Monument - east and south

{East face - Latin inscription with a bronze plaque below:} Translation of th...

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The Monument - west and north

The bas relief by Cibber is worthy of close examination.  It shows a woman on...

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