It’s ’ot in ’ere

The latch clicked on the shop door. Thomas Farrinor put the key in his pocket, patted it and headed home. Though this Sunday had not been a day of rest for Thomas, it had been successful, and he was now just looking forward to peeking at his sleeping children before he and Annie went to bed.

As he walked home, the shop’s next door neighbours started to feel a little uncomfortable.

“Bleedin’ ’ell, it’s ’ot in ’ere! Fanny, open the window!”

“Can’t, Joseph, it’s stuck.”

“You stupid wench, let me ’ave a go. Oh my God!”

“What?”

“There’s a bleedin’ fire outside!”

“Where?”

“Every bloody where!”

At a comfortable home near Westminster, Fire Chief Charles Lombard was hammering on the Lord Mayor’s front door. A sleepy man in an expensive-looking dressing gown appeared at the threshold.

“Sir Thomas, have you heard?” he said frantically.

“Yes, Charles,” he yawned. “A travesty.”

“Sir Thomas, we need action!”

“Er, yes, right. What needs doing Lombard?”

“Everything, Sir. It’s going to take the whole city unless we do something.”

“Er…” He paused, rubbing his chin.

“Sir!” Lombard continued, his voice increasing in urgency, “we need to create firebreaks. Demolish the houses, sir.”

“Isn’t that a bit drastic?”

“We have no choice, sir. People are dying!”

“Oh, yes, well…”

“The Duke of York has offered the Royal Life Guards.”

“Tell him we are grateful, but no.”

“But, sir…”

“You have men, do you not?”

“Well, yes sir, but…”

“Then that’s the end of the matter. Your men will contain it and you shall be praised for their actions.”

“But sir…!”

“Good night Lombard.”

“But…”

“Good night!”

Four days, 13,500 houses, 87 parish churches, 44 Company Halls, the Royal Exchange, the Custom House, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Bridewell Palace, the General Letter Office and three western city gates later, English naval administrator and MP Samuel Pepys was at his desk in Axe Yard, the area later known as Downing Street, scribbling away in his diary.

Meanwhile over in EC3, Thomas and Annie Farrinor, accompanied by their three boys, shuffled through the cinders of the King’s Bakery, Pudding Lane. Thomas hugged his family close to him and wondered, once his bakery was rebuilt, what he’d need to do to get King Charles II’s endorsement again.

***

Photography courtesy of morguefile.com.

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