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The Monument - west and north The Monument

Plaque: The Monument - west and north


{West face, below the Cibber relief is a wooden board:}
This monument designed by Sir Christopher Wren was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London 1666 which burned for three days consuming more than 13,000 houses and devastating 436 acres of the City.  The Monument is 202 ft in height, being equal to the distance westward from the bakehouse in Pudding Lane where the fire broke out.  It took six years to construct 1671 – 1677.  The balcony is reached by a spiral stairway of 311 steps and affords panoramic views of the metropolis.  A superstructure rises from the balcony and supports a copper vase of flames.
The allegorical sculpture on the pedestal above was executed by Caius Gabriel Cibber.
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St Magnus the Martyr Fish Street Hill to the south leads to St Magnus the Martyr (a Wren church) alongside which is the ancient footpath which led to the first London Bridge.

{North face - Latin inscription with a bronze plaque below:}
Translation of the Latin inscription above:
In the year of Christ 1666, on the 2nd September, at a distance eastward from this place of 202 feet, which is the height of this column, a fire broke out in the dead of night, which, the wind blowing, devoured even distant buildings, and rushed devastating through every quarter with astonishing swiftness and noise. It consumed 89 churches, gates, the Guildhall, public edifices, hospitals, schools, libraries, a great number of blocks of buildings, 13,200 houses, 400 streets. Of the 26 wards, it utterly destroyed 15, and left 8 mutilated and half-burnt. The ashes of the City, covering as many as 436 acres, extended on one side from the Tower along the bank of the Thames to the church of the Templars, on the other side from the north-east gate along the walls to the head of Fleet-ditch. Merciless to the wealth and estates of the citizens, it was harmless to their lives, so as throughout to remind us of the final destruction of the world by fire. The havoc was swift. A little space of time saw the same city most prosperous and no longer in being. On the third day, when it had now altogether vanquished all human counsel and resource, at the bidding, as we may well believe, of heaven, the fatal fire stayed its course and everywhere died out. *[But Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched.]

* These last words were added in 1681 and finally deleted in 1830.

The bas relief by Cibber is worthy of close examination.  It shows a woman on the left (representing the City) languishing on some ruins. Winged Time supports her and a female figure points with a winged sceptre at the clouds which contain two more bare-breasted lovelies, one with a cornucopia (Plenty) and one with a laurel branch (Praise).  Behind the group on the left are some figures waving their hands in distress and behind them, the cause, buildings with smoke and flames pouring forth. To the right of this group can be seen a beehive, symbol of industry.  And is that the City dragon/griffon we see at the bottom left creeping out from under the ruins?  The main figure in the group to the right is King Charles II standing at the top of some steps. He directs three more scantily-clad women down the steps towards poor City. They represent: Science brandishing a figure of many-breasted Nature and with a very strange headdress; Architecture clutching some plans and a pair of compasses, and Liberty waving her cowboy hat in the air.  To the right of the Kings stands his brother, the Duke of York (the future King James II) clutching a garland, presumably destined for the City. Behind James are two more female allegorical figures: to the left Justice wearing a coronet and to the right Fortitude brandishing a sword in one hand while the other controls the leashed lion at her feet. Behind this group the reconstruction of the City progresses, with workmen scrambling over scaffolding. Below the steps on which this group stands, squeezed into an arched cavern is an ugly female figure, Envy eating her own heart.

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 Monument - west and north

Information Subjects commemorated

Thomas Faryner and his shop

Born 1615-6, Thomas Faryner (or Farriner) joined the Baker's Company in 1637,...

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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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King Charles I

Born Fife. Until the age of 11 he was only the 'spare' but then his 18-year o...

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King James II

England's last Roman Catholic king, James II of England but James VII of Scot...

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This section lists the subjects who helped to create/erect the memorial on this page:
The Monument - west and north

Information Created by

Caius Gabriel Cibber

Sculptor. Born Denmark.  Came to England in about 1655 and arrived in London ...

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Sir Christopher Wren

Born East Knoyle, Wiltshire, died London.   Part of one of his churches, St A...

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This section lists the other memorials at the same location as the memorial on this page:
The Monument - west and north

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 lost plaque commemorating the Great Fire

This plaque appears to be that oddest of things, a plaque commemorating a los...

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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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