Wednesday 12 April 2017

Can you smell burning?

2016 was the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, and to mark this the Museum of London held a special exhibition which we visited in November. There was a fascinating amount of material about the fire, backed up with social history of the era, and something for everyone from young child to serious adult enquirer - I expect real academics would already know everything that was here! It covered the fire itself, the tackling of it, and the way that London set about recovering: not just rebuilding but dealing with those who had lost their possessions, in an age when insurance was not available for most.

We were looking for an occasion to go to London because we had a gift voucher for afternoon tea at The Wolseley in Piccadilly and London is a long way to go just for tea, no matter how grand the tea! This fitted the bill nicely: morning at the Museum, afternoon tea, and it was also late enough in the year to see the Christmas lights in the West End, and then a quick visit to family before getting the usual train home.

Getting to the Museum of London is a cinch for us. The entrance to the museum is off a traffic island (yes, really, but there is a bridge to it!) at the southern end of the A1 Great North Road, on which we live, 90 miles further north; much quicker and far more comfortable, though, it is just along the street from Barbican Underground station, just two stops from Kings Cross where our Virgin Trains East Coast services drop us after a very fast ride from Peterborough.

(The exhibition is still on now for the last few days over the Easter holiday, too!)

 The great fire began in the middle of the night, so it spread quickly before anyone was awake to tackle it.

The exhibition contained many images (all paintings and drawings, of course!) of the fire alongside contemporary descriptions and current notes and interpretations to help understanding.

Many churches were destroyed, including St Paul's Cathedral (seen here) and the beautiful work of Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke whose designs replaced them is an indirect benefit of the Great Fire!
I love the idea that the 22 judges who sorted out the disputes over who paid for what repairs gave their time free of charge and worked on a rota of three at a time, and that they were given their portraits as a thank-you present for all their work!

Three of the portraits were on display.

As always we travelled up to London by Virgin Trains East Coast, with Advance First Class tickets making this a special day for minimal extra outlay - always worth travelling First Class if you can commit to a specific time a few weeks in advance, especially midweek (as this was - since my wife's retirement we can travel on my midweek day off) when the refreshments on the train are excellent and include wine, spirits etc on the way home.

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