Southwark: London's Historic Entertainment District
Sir Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire of London
My name is Brian Cookson. I have been a London Blue Badge Guide since 1997 and have written two books on London. I am especially fascinated by all the history and sights to be found on the banks of the River Thames.
Right now, you should be standing at Sir Christopher Wren's Monument to the Great Fire of London of 1666. Look up at the tall obelisk. You will see a golden urn at the top which gives out a fiery glow in the sunshine. Take a closer look while I tell you more about it.
Look up right to the top. The golden urn is at a height of 202 ft, which is the exact distance from here to the baker's shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started. The shop is just up to your left, if you're facing the monument.
The fire spread rapidly, partly because most of the houses in the City were built of wood and plaster. Within three days, 80 per cent of the old City was burnt down, including 87 churches and Old St Paul's Cathedral. All new buildings after 1666 had to be constructed from brick and stone, which changed the character of London completely.
Amazingly, only six people were killed in the blaze. One was the unfortunate Agent Hubert, who fell foul of the anti-Catholic feelings of the time. He was falsely accused of starting the fire and then executed.
Now, walk around to the left of the monument. Look at the base. You can see a Latin inscription there.
[PAUSE IN AUDIO]
There used to be a line blaming the Catholics for the fire. The line was only removed after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.
Now, let’s get going. Go back to the front of the monument, and then walk down the hill on the tarred road. I’ll tell you a bit about our walk as we go.
This walk will take us through Southwark, which has always been outside the control of the City of London. It used to have a murky reputation, because it filled city-dwellers' demand for entertainment, work and trade that were not permitted within the boundaries of the City. But today it’s a bustling historic centre filled with ancient inns, hospitals, markets and prisons.
VoiceMap uses GPS to pinpoint your location and trigger the relevant audio. This means you can put your phone away now and relax. I will tell you where to go.
Keep going, and I’ll meet you at the corner of Lower Thames Street ahead.