This might sound a contradiction in terms, but the Great Fire of London was exactly that - "A BENEFICIAL CALAMITY"
and The Monument is a memorial to it.
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke, it stands at the junction of
Fish St. Hill and Monument Street as a perpetual reminder of one of the greatest, but beneficial at the same time, calamities ever to befall this city. The height of The Monument and the distance from it to the King's Bakery in Pudding Lane where it started in the early hours of May 02 1666 -
JUST 1 YEAR ON FROM THE GREAT PLAGUE -
are exactly the same - 202 feet! Is this a coincidence or a sleight of hand?
The Fire itself burned for 3 whole days, destroying more than 13,000 dwellings
and laying waste over 436 acres of land. A less well-known, but inter-connected, monument, is THE GOLDEN BOY OF PYE CORNER. This marks the location near Smithfield where the Great Fire was extinguished on the orders of Prince James, Duke of York. He called for the demolition of sufficient houses so that a firebreak wide enough to stop the conflagration from spreading could be created.
A VERY BOLD STANCE, INDEED!!
All other means had been tried - but to no avail!
The building of the structure, which occupies the site of the former St. Margaret's -
the first church to be devoured by the flames - began in 1671 but was not finished for a further 6 years.The lack of procuring good quality Portland stone in sufficient quantities was said to be the cause. A Royal edict then ensued which stipulated that
"NOBODY IS ALLOWED TO REMOVE MATERIAL FROM THE ISLE OF PORTLAND
THEY HAVE OBTAINED PERMISSION FROM THE ARCHITECT-GENERAL
TO DO SO".
There are inscriptions in Latin all round the base, but it was the ones on the East side which caused the greatest furore. The blame was put initially - and erroneously, as it proved to be - on Roman Catholics for being responsible for starting the Fire:-
"Burning of this Protestant city begun, and carried on, by the treachery and malice of the Popish factor".
Sir Alexander Pope, 18th C Poet,famously penned this retort:-
"While London's column, pointing at the skies, like a tall bully, lifts the head,
Following the enactment of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, orders were relayed for the removal of ALL REFERENCES appertaining to any religious involvement in this dreadful affair.
The final cost of this masterpiece was £13,450 11s 9d
and 28,196 cu.ft of stone was transported from Dorset to create it. After much prolonged discussion, a gilded urn of fire was placed atop of it.
A narrow, winding staircase of 311 treads will take you to a balcony just below this but, following the deaths of 6 unrelated people in just over 50 years, a mesh barrier had to be erected in the latter half of the 19th C to prevent a repeat of such dreadful happenings.
It is now a Grade 1 Listed structure and is open at the following times:-
APRIL-SEPT. 09:30 - 17:30
OCTOBER - MARCH 09:30 - 17:00
There is, naturally, an admission charge - this is variable, dependent on circs. - but it is currently CASH ONLY.
There are a few rules to be followed
no large bags to be carried up to the balcony
maximum of 33 people permitted at the top at any one time due to confines of the structure. The view is well worth the effort needed to attain it because the word
doesn't do it justice at all.
"Come,climb and enjoy. It's waiting for you".