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Pepys: Fire of London

1 hour
First broadcast:
Saturday 11 May 2013

London in 1666 was a health and safety nightmare. It was illegal to build with wood and thatch but people did it anyway. Foundries were forbidden in the city but that didn't stop them operating. Charles II had banned dangerous overhanging windows but this was ignored by local government who carried on building them regardless. Many homes still contained muskets and gunpowder left over from Cromwell's time. Six hundred tons of highly potent gunpowder were stored in the Tower of London itself. Riverfront warehouses were full of oil and tallow. There was no fire service.

In Pudding Lane, on 2 September, after a day of slaving over a hot oven, Thomas Farrinor, baker to King Charles II, went to bed unaware that his oven was still alight. The smouldering embers ignited some nearby firewood and by 1 o'clock in the morning his house was ablaze. A strong wind on that September morning ensured that sparks flew everywhere . . .

Samuel Pepys' diary of the following days, dramatised by Hattie Naylor, reveals the unfolding drama.

Theme music: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, words by Robert Herrick and music by William Lawes, sung by Bethany Hughes. Lute, baroque guitar and theorbo played by David Miller. Violin and viol by Annika Gray, and recorders by Alice Baxter.
Historical consultant: Liza Picard
Sound by Nigel Lewis

A BBC/Cymru Wales production, directed by Kate McAll.


Hattie Naylor
Samuel Pepys
Kris Marshall
Elizabeth Pepys
Katherine Jakeways
John Biddle
King Charles
Ewan Bailey
Rebecca Newman
Mayor Bludworth
Matthew Gravelle
Mr Houblon
Richard Nichols
Mrs Wood
Siriol Jenkins
Mrs Batelier
Eiry Thomas


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