Monument to the Great Fire of London

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Modern-day view of the Monument, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Monument to the Great Fire of London.JPG
Modern-day view of the Monument, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Viewing platform at the top of the Monument. Monument top restored.JPG
Viewing platform at the top of the Monument.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London, more commonly known simply as the Monument, is a Doric column in London, United Kingdom, situated near the northern end of London Bridge. Commemorating the Great Fire of London, it stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, 202 feet (62 m) in height and 202 feet west of the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. Constructed between 1671 and 1677, it was built on the site of St. Margaret's, Fish Street, the first church to be destroyed by the Great Fire. It is Grade I listed and is a scheduled monument. [1] Another monument, the Golden Boy of Pye Corner, marks the point near Smithfield where the fire was stopped.

Contents

The Monument comprises a fluted Doric column built of Portland stone topped with a gilded urn of fire. It was designed by Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. Its height marks its distance from the site of the shop of Thomas Farriner (or Farynor), the king's baker, where the blaze began.

The viewing platform near 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 to prevent people jumping to the ground, after six people had committed suicide there between 1788 and 1842. [2]

Three sides of the base carry inscriptions in Latin. The one on the south side describes actions taken by King Charles II following the fire. The inscription on the east side 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. [3] The Latin words "Sed Furor Papisticus Qui Tamdiu Patravit Nondum Restingvitur" (but Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched) were added to the end of the inscription on the orders of the Court of Aldermen in 1681 during the foment of the Popish Plot. [4] Text on the east side originally falsely blamed Roman Catholics for the fire ("burning of this protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the popish faction"), which prompted Alexander Pope (himself a Catholic) to say of the area:

Where London's column, pointing at the skies,
Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies.
– Moral Essays, Epistle iii. line 339 (1733–1734).

The words blaming Catholics were chiselled out with Catholic Emancipation in 1830. [5]

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 King James II), surrounded by liberty, architecture, and science, giving directions for its restoration. [3]

It gives its name to the nearby London Underground station, Monument.

History

The Monument depicted in a picture by Sutton Nicholls, c. 1753. TheMonumentSuttonNichollsc1753 edited.jpg
The Monument depicted in a picture by Sutton Nicholls, c. 1753.

The first Rebuilding Act, passed in 1669, stipulated that "the better to preserve the memory of this dreadful visitation", a column of either brass or stone should be set up on Fish Street Hill, on or near the site of Farynor's bakery, where the fire began. Christopher Wren, as surveyor-general of the King's Works, was asked to submit a design. Wren worked with Robert Hooke on the design. It is impossible to disentangle the collaboration between Hooke and Wren, but Hooke's drawings of possible designs for the column still exist, with Wren's signature on them indicating his approval of the drawings rather than their authorship. [6] It was not until 1671 that the City Council approved the design, and it took six years to complete the 202 ft column. It was two more years before the inscription (which had been left to Wren — or to Wren's choice — to decide upon) was set in place. "Commemorating — with a brazen disregard for the truth — the fact that 'London rises again...three short years complete that which was considered the work of ages.'" [7]

Views published in The Graphic, 1891. Monument The Graphic 1891.jpg
Views published in The Graphic , 1891.
Dragons sculpture on the side of the Monument Dragon on the Monument.JPG
Dragons sculpture on the side of the Monument

Hooke's surviving drawings show that several versions of the monument were submitted for consideration: a plain obelisk, a column garnished with tongues of fire, and the fluted Doric column that was eventually chosen. The real contention came with the problem of what type of ornament to have at the top. Initially, Wren favoured a statue of a phoenix with outstretched wings rising from the ashes, but as the column neared completion he decided instead on a 15 ft statue either of Charles II, or a sword-wielding female to represent a triumphant London; the cost of either being estimated at £1,050. Charles himself disliked the idea of his statue atop the monument and instead preferred a simple copper-gilded ball "with flames sprouting from the top", costing a little over £325, but ultimately it was the design of a flaming gilt-bronze urn suggested by Robert Hooke that was chosen.

The total cost of the monument was £13,450 11s 9d., of which £11,300 was paid to the mason-contractor Joshua Marshall. [7] (Joshua Marshall was Master of the Worshipful Company of Masons in 1670.)

The Edinburgh-born writer James Boswell visited the Monument in 1763 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".

The area around the base of the column, Monument Street, was pedestrianised in 2006 in a £790,000 street improvement scheme. [8] [9]

The Monument closed in July 2007 for an 18-month, £4.5 million refurbishment project and re-opened in February 2009. [10]

Between 1 and 2 October 2011, a Live Music Sculpture created especially for the Monument by British composer Samuel Bordoli was performed 18 times during the weekend. This was the first occasion that music had ever been heard inside the structure and effectively transformed Wren's design into a gigantic reverberating musical instrument. [11]

As a scientific instrument

Wren and Hooke built the monument to double-up as a scientific instrument. [12] [13] 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 through a hatch in the floor of the present-day ticket booth). Vibrations from heavy traffic on Fish Street Hill rendered the experimental conditions unsuitable. [14]

At the top of the monument, a hinged lid in the urn covers the opening to the shaft. [15] The steps in the shaft of the tower are all six inches high, allowing them to be used for barometric pressure studies. [15]

More recently, researchers from Queen Mary's University of London used the shaft of the monument stairwell to measure deformation in a hanging wire. By twisting and untwisting a wire hanging down the shaft of the stairwell, they were able to detect deformation at less than 9 parts per billion - equivalent to a one degree twist over the length of the 50 meter wire. [16]

Panoramic camera system

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.

London panorama top monument.jpg
Panorama of London taken from the top of the Monument

In fiction

View down the interior staircase. Monumento al Gran Incendio de Londres, Londres, Inglaterra, 2014-08-11, DD 152.JPG
View down the interior staircase.
View up. Monumento al Gran Incendio de Londres, Londres, Inglaterra, 2014-08-11, DD 154-156 HDR.JPG
View up.


if the day were bright, you observed upon the house–tops, stretching far away, a long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and turning round, the tall original was close beside you, with every hair erect upon his golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him. [17]




See also

Related Research Articles

Robert Hooke English natural philosopher, architect and polymath

Robert Hooke FRS was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath. As a young adult, he was a financially impoverished scientific inquirer, but came into wealth and good reputation following his actions as Surveyor to the City of London after the great fire of 1666 . At that time, he was also the curator of experiments of the Royal Society, and a member of its council, Gresham Professor of Geometry. He was also an important architect of his time—though few of his buildings now survive and some of those are generally misattributed—and was instrumental in devising a set of planning controls for London, the influence of which remains today. Allan Chapman has characterised him as "England's Leonardo".

Christopher Wren English architect

Sir Christopher Wren PRS FRS was an English anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, as well as one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666, including what is regarded as his masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710.

St Mary Aldermary Church in London

The Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary is an Anglican church located in Watling Street at the junction with Bow Lane, in the City of London. Of medieval origin, it was rebuilt from 1510. Badly damaged in the Great Fire of London in 1666, it was rebuilt once more, this time by Sir Christopher Wren; unlike the vast majority of Wren's City churches, St Mary Aldermary is in the Gothic style.

St Peter upon Cornhill Church in London

St Peter upon Cornhill is an Anglican church on the corner of Cornhill and Gracechurch Street in the City of London of medieval origin. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. It is now a satellite church in the parish of St Helen's Bishopsgate. It lies in the ward of Cornhill.

St Mary Somerset Church in City of London

St. Mary Somerset was a church in the City of London first recorded in the twelfth century. Destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, it was one of the 51 churches rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The tower is located in Upper Thames Street, the body of the church being demolished in 1871.

All-Hallows-the-Great Church in London

All-Hallows-the-Great was a church in the City of London, located on what is now Upper Thames Street, first mentioned in 1235. Destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666, the church was rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. All-Hallows-the-Great was demolished in 1894 when many bodies were disinterred from the churchyard and reburied at Brookwood Cemetery.

St Stephen Coleman Street Church in London

St. Stephen's Church, Coleman Street, also called "St Stephen's in the Jewry", was a church in the City of London, at the corner of Coleman Street and what is now Gresham Street, first mentioned in the 12th century. In the middle ages it is variously described as a parish church, and as a chapel of ease to the church of St Olave Old Jewry; its parochial status was defined permanently in 1456.

St Olaves Church, Old Jewry Church in United Kingdom

St Olave's Church, Old Jewry sometimes known as Upwell Old Jewry was a church in the City of London located between the street called Old Jewry and Ironmonger Lane. Destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the church was rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The church was demolished in 1887, except for the tower and west wall, which remain today.

St Michael Paternoster Royal Church in London

St Michael Paternoster Royal is a church in the City of London. The original building, which was first recorded in the 13th century, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The church was rebuilt under the aegis of Sir Christopher Wren. However St Michael’s was severely damaged during the London Blitz in the Second World War. It was restored between 1966 and 1968.

St Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange Church in London

St. Bartholomew-by-the-Exchange was a church and parish in the City of London located on Bartholomew Lane, off Threadneedle Street. Recorded since the 13th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, then rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The rebuilt church was demolished in 1840.

The Rebuilding of London Act 1666 is an Act of the Parliament of England with the long title "An Act for rebuilding the City of London." The Act was passed in February 1667 in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London and drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale. An earlier Act, the Fire of London Disputes Act 1666, had set up a court to settle disputes arising from buildings destroyed by the Fire. This Act regulated the rebuilding, authorized the City of London Corporation to reopen and widen roads, designated the anniversary of the Fire a feast day, and authorized the building of the Monument. A duty of one shilling on a tonne of coal was imposed to pay for these measures.

St Benet Gracechurch Church in London

St Benet Gracechurch, so called because a haymarket existed nearby (Cobb), was a parish church in the City of London. First recorded in the 11th century, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The church was demolished in 1868.

St Matthew Friday Street Church in London

St. Matthew Friday Street was a church in the City of London located on Friday Street, off Cheapside. Recorded since the 13th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, then rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The rebuilt church was demolished in 1885.

St Michael Bassishaw Church in London

St. Michael Bassishaw a.k.a. Michael Basinshaw, was a parish church in Basinghall Street in the City of London, on land now occupied by the Barbican Centre complex. Recorded since the 12th century, the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, then rebuilt by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. The rebuilt church was demolished in 1900.

St Antholin, Budge Row Church in London

St Antholin, Budge Row, or St Antholin, Watling Street, was a church in the City of London. Of medieval origin, it was rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, following its destruction in the Great Fire of London in 1666. The 17th-century building was demolished in 1874.

St Swithin, London Stone Church in London

St Swithin, London Stone, was an Anglican Church in the City of London. It stood on the north side of Cannon Street, between Salters' Hall Court and St Swithin's Lane, which runs north from Cannon Street to King William Street and takes its name from the church. Of medieval origin, it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London, and rebuilt to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren. It was badly damaged by bombing during the Second World War, and the remains demolished in 1962.

St Dionis Backchurch Church in London

St Dionis Backchurch was a parish church in the Langbourn ward of the City of London. Of medieval origin, it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of London to the designs of Christopher Wren and demolished in 1878.

St Margaret, New Fish Street Church in City of London , United Kingdom

St Margaret, New Fish Street, was a parish church in the City of London.

References

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  7. 1 2 Tinniswood, Adrian, His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren (Oxford Press, 2001) p.232
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  9. City of London – Proposals and Priorities, p166 Archived 9 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. "The Project". www.themonument.info. City of London. 30 July 2007. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2007.
  11. "Monument hosts music performance". 1 October 2011 via www.bbc.co.uk.
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  17. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
  18. Lloyd, Robert J. (4 February 2014). The Bloodless Boy. Peach Publishing. ISBN   978-1500550691.

Further reading

Coordinates: 51°30′36″N0°05′10″W / 51.51013°N 0.086001°W / 51.51013; -0.086001