Monument to the Great Fire of London

Monument in/near City of London, existing until now

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Monument · City of London · EC3R ·
September
12
2013

The 'Monument to the Great Fire of London', commemorates the 1666 inferno.

The Monument to The Great Fire of London, circa 1753.
Credit: Sutton Nicholls
It is a stone Roman Doric column of Portland stone topped with a gilded urn of fire, near the northern end of London Bridge.

It stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 feet tall and 202 feet from the place where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Another monument, the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, marks the point near Smithfield where the fire stopped. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it is the tallest isolated stone column in the world and was built on the site of St. Margaret's, Fish Street, the first church to be burnt down by the Great Fire.

The Monument was designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. Its height marks its distance from the site in Pudding Lane of the shop of Thomas Farynor, the king's baker, where the Great Fire began. Wren and Hooke built the monument to double-up as a scientific instrument. It has a central shaft meant for use as a zenith telescope and for use in gravity and pendulum experiments that connects to an underground laboratory for observers to work (accessible from the present-day ticket booth). Vibrations from heavy traffic on Fish Hill rendered the experimental conditions unsuitable.

A hinged lid in the urn covers the opening to the shaft. The steps in the shaft of the tower are all six inches high, allowing them to be used for barometric pressure studies.

The top of the Monument is reached by a narrow winding staircase of 311 steps. A mesh cage was added in the mid-19th century at the top of the Monument to prevent people jumping off, after six people had committed suicide from the structure between 1788 and 1842.

Three sides of the base carry inscriptions in Latin. The one on the south side describes actions taken by Charles II following the fire. The one on the east describes how the Monument was started and brought to perfection, and under which mayors. Inscriptions on the north side describe how the fire started, how much damage it caused, and how it was eventually extinguished.

In 1681, the words but "Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched" were added to the end of the inscription. Text on the east side generally blames Roman Catholics for the fire. The words were chiselled out in 1830.

The west side of the base displays a sculpture, by Caius Gabriel Cibber, in alto and bas relief, of the destruction of the City; with Charles II and his brother, James, the Duke of York (later James II), surrounded by liberty, architecture, and science, giving directions for its restoration.

The writer James Boswell visited the Monument in 1762 to climb the 311 steps to what was then the highest viewpoint in London. Halfway up, he suffered a panic attack, but persevered and made it to the top, where he found it "horrid to be so monstrous a way up in the air, so far above London and all its spires".

During the 2007–2009 refurbishment, a 360-degree panoramic camera was installed on top of the Monument. Updated every minute and running 24 hours a day, it provides a record of weather, building and ground activity in the City.

xxx

The Monument to The Great Fire of London, circa 1753.
Sutton Nicholls


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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1750s
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1860s
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VIEW THE CITY OF LONDON AREA IN THE 1900s
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City of London

The City of London constituted most of London from its settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages, but the conurbation has since grown far beyond its borders.

As the City's boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, it is now only a tiny part of the metropolis of Greater London, though it remains a notable part of central London. It holds city status in its own right and is also a separate ceremonial county.

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