350 years ago today, the Great Fire of London began in a tiny bakery on Pudding Lane. Three days later and 13,200 homes were destroyed, with the inferno devouring 400 acres in total – approximately four-fifths of the UK capital.
The anniversary is being marked by the Museum of London, which has launched a website tracking the course of the blaze to accompany an exhibition that continues to run until April 2017. On Sunday night, a 120-metre-long sculpture of 17th-century London will be burned on the River Thames, as part of a project called London 1666: Watch It Burn.
Several buildings survived the blaze, from All Hallows by the tower – making it the oldest church in the City of London – and the Tower of London, as well as Staple Inn near Chancery Lane.
But if the blaze were to take place today, what damage would it inflict? According to research from Policy Expert, the fire would destroy more than £7.5bn worth of property.
While 87 churches and St Paul’s Cathedral were all damaged by the fire, it was arguably the city’s residential real estate that suffered the biggest blow, with around a quarter of the housing stock consumed.Taking this statistic into account, in today’s terms, the fire would have devastated around 870,000 London homes. The value of those homes in today’s terms would be a staggering £499bn.
“While our analysis represents a current value for the buildings destroyed, it still doesn’t even take into account the contents of these homes. The average home will have more than £20,000 worth of contents and it’s often undervalued by the policy holder,” says Adam Powell, Head of Operations at Policy Expert.
“While it is unlikely that we will ever see a fire of the same scale, the message here is to appreciate the devastation that fire can cause. Fire damage is one of the largest causes for insurance claims and many of these are avoidable if you take simple steps.”
A fire in the home can be truly devastating, but often easily avoidable. Just as the great fire was caused by a malfunction of cooking apparatus on Pudding Lane, latest figures show that cooking appliances caused 50 per cent of accidental dwelling fires in 2014/15 and was by far the largest ignition category. 36 per cent of accidental dwelling fires in 2014/15 were caused by “misuse of equipment or appliances”.
Watch the live-stream of Sunday’s commemorative fire here:Google+