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This Sceptred Isle

The Great Plague and the Great Fire
Bubonic plague hit London in 1665. More than 7,000 people died in one week. A year later on September 3rd 1666 the Great Fire of London started. In less than five days, the City of London between the Tower and the Temple was destroyed. Meanwhile England had gone to war with the Dutch. The Dutch had gradually been gnawing away at British interests in America, India and Africa. Parliament voted for war and granted a sum of £2.5million to pay for it. More than one hundred new ships were built and War at seat began in 1664 off the West African coast.

Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren

  • Savilian professor of astronomy at Oxford between1661 and 1673
  • Helped set up the Royal Society and was president in 1680
  • In 1661 became assistant to the surveyor-general of the King's works
  • By 1669 he was the Surveyor-general
  • Principal architect for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, designing St Paul's and many churches and livery houses although his plans for grand avenues came to nothing
  • Other works include the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, and hospitals at Chelsea, Greenwich and Kilmainham (Dublin)
  • Also an MP

did you know?
The plague came from the Far East. The fleas not only lived on black rats but also on soldiers' uniforms.

As part of the peace treaty the Dutch ceded one of their New World territories, it was then called New Amsterdam and was renamed after Charles II's brother - New York.

September the third. The fire continuing, after dinner I took coach with my wife and son, and went to the bank side in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole city in dreadful flames near the water side; all the houses from the bridge, all Thames Street and upwards towards Cheapside, down to the Three Cranes, were now consumed; and so returned exceeding astonished what would become of the rest.

The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that from the beginning, I know not by what despondency or fate, they hardly stirred to quench it, so that there was nothing heard or seen but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures without at all attempting to save even their goods, such a strange consternation there was upon them; so as it burned both in breadth and length the churches, public halls, Exchange, hospitals, monuments and ornaments, leaping after a prodigious manner from house to house and street to street, at great distances from one from the other, for the heat with a long set of fair and warm weather had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials to conceive the fire, which devoured after an incredible manner, houses, furniture and everything.

All the sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, and the light seen above forty miles round about for many nights. God grant mine eyes may never behold the like, who now saw above ten thousand houses all in one flame. The noise and cracking and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses and churches, was like a hideous storm...near two miles in length and one in breadth. Thus I left it, burning, a resemblance of Sodom or the Last Day.

Select historical period

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1645New Model Army is established
Laud is executed
Use of the prayer book is forbidden
1646Charles I surrenders to the Scots
Receives propositions of Newcastle
1647Scots hand Charles I over to the English
1649Charles I is tried and executed
The monarchy and the House of Lords are abolished
The Commonwealth is declared.
1658Oliver Cromwell dies
1660Charles II signs the Declaration of Breda
Charles II is restored to the throne
1662Charles II marries Catherine of Braganza
1665The Great Plague
1666The Fire of London
1672Charles II issues the Declaration of Indulgence
1677Princess Mary marries William of Orange
1685Charles II dies
James II becomes king of England

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