DEPTFORD QUATRAINS John Evelyn’s diary dated September 7th to September 11th 1666

Friday 7 September 1666

I went this morning on foote from White hall as far as London bridge, thro the Late fleete streete, Ludgate hill, by St. Paules, Cheape side, Exchange, Bishopsgate, Aldersgate, & out to Morefields, thence thro Cornehill, &c. with extraordinary difficulty, clambring over mountaines of yet smoking rubbish, & frequently mistaking where I was, the ground under my feete so hott, as made me not onely Sweate, but even burnt the soles of my shoes, & put me all over in Sweate. In the meane time his Majestie got to the Tower by Water, to demolish the houses about the Graft, which being built intirely about it, had they taken fire, & attaq’d the white Towre, where the Magazines of Powder lay, would undo[u]btedly have not onely beaten downe & destroyed all the bridge, but sunke & torne all the vessells in the river, & rendred the demolition beyond all expression for severall miles even about the Country at many miles distance.

At my returne I was infinitly concern’d to find that goodly Church St. Paules now a sad ruine, & that beautifull Portico (for structure comparable to any in Europ, as not long before repaird by the late King) now rent in pieces, flakes of vast Stone Split in sunder, & nothing remaining intire but the Inscription in the Architrave which shewing by whom it was built, had not one letter of it defac’d: which I could not but take notice of. It was astonishing to see what imense stones the heate had in a manner Calcin’d, so as all the ornaments, Columns, freezes, Capitels & projectures of massie Portland stone flew off, even to the very roofe, where a Sheete of Leade covering no lesse than 6 akers by measure, being totaly mealted, the ruines of the Vaulted roofe, falling brake into St. Faithes, which being filled with the magazines of bookes, belonging to the Stationer[s], & carried thither for safty, they were all consumed burning for a weeke following. It is also observable, that the lead over the Altar at the East end was untouch’d; and among the divers monuments, the body of one Bishop, remained intire.

Thus lay in ashes that most venerab[l]e Church, one of the [antientest] Pieces of early Piety in the Christian world, beside neere 100 more. The lead, yronworke, bells, plate &c mealted; the exquisitely wrought Mercers Chapell, the Sumptuous Exchange, the august fabricque of Christ church, all the rest of the Companies Halls, sumptuous buildings, Arches, Enteries, all in dust. The fountaines dried up & ruind, whilst the very waters remained boiling; the Voragos of subterranean Cellars Wells & Dungeons, formerly Warehouses, still burning in stench & dark clowds of smoke like hell, so as in five or six miles traversing about, I did not see one load of timber unconsum’d, nor many stones but what were calcind white as snow, so as the people who now walked about the ruines, appeard like men in some dismal desart, or rather in some greate Citty, lay’d wast by an impetuous & cruel Enemy, to which was added the stench that came from some poore Creaturs bodys, beds & other combustible goods.

Sir Tho. Gresshams Statue, though falln to the ground from its nich in the R. Exchange remain’d intire, when all those of the Kings since the Conquest were broken to pieces. Also the Standard in Cornehill, & Q. Elizabeths Effigies, with some armes on Ludgate continud with but little detriment, whilst the vast yron Chaines of the Cittie streetes, vast hinges, barrs & gates of Prisons were many of them mealted, & reduc’d to cinders by the vehement heats. Nor was I yet able to pass through any of the narrower streetes, but kept [to] the widest, the ground & aire, smoake & fiery vapour, continud so intense, my hair being almost seinged, & my feete unsufferably surbated. The bielanes & narrower streetes were quite fill’d up with rubbish, nor could one have possibly knowne where he was, but by the ruines of some church, or hall, that had some remarkable towre or pinacle remaining.

I then went towards Islington, & high-gate, where one might have seene two hundred thousand people of all ranks & degrees, dispersed, & laying along by their heapes of what they could save from the Incendium, deploring their losse, & though ready to perish for hunger & destitution, yet not asking one penny for reliefe, which to me appeard a stranger sight, than any I had yet beheld. His Majestie & Council indeeade tooke all imaginable care for their reliefe, by Proclamation, for the Country to come in & refresh them with provisions: when in the middst of all this Calamity & confusion, there was (I know not how) an Alarme begun, that the French & Dutch (with whom we were now in hostility) were not onely landed, but even entring the Citty; there being in truth, greate suspicion some days before, of those two nations joyning, & even now, that they had ben the occasion of firing the Towne.

This report did so terrifie, that on a suddaine there was such an uprore & tumult, that they ran from their goods, Taking what weapons they could come at, they could not be stop’d from falling on some of those nations whom they casualy met, without sense or reason, the clamor & perill growing so excessive, as made the whole Court amaz’d at it, & they did with infinite paines, & greate difficulty reduce & apease the people, sending Guards & troopes of souldiers, to cause them to retire into the fields againe, where they were watched all this night when I left them pretty quiet, & came home to my house, sufficiently weary & broken. Their spirits thus a little sedated, & the affright abated, they now began to repaire into the suburbs about the Citty, where such as had friends or opportunit[i]e got shelter & harbour for the Present; to which his Majesties Proclamation also invited them. Still the Plage, continuing in our parish, I could not without danger adventure to our Church.

Monday 10 September 1666

I went againe to the ruines, for it was now no longer a Citty.

Tuesday 11 September 1666

Sat at Star Chamber, on the 13, I presented his Majestie with a Survey of the ruines, and a Plot for a new Citty, with a discourse on it, whereupon, after dinner, his Majestie sent for me into the Queenes Bed-chamber, her Majestie & the Duke onely present, where they examind each particular, & discoursed upon them for neere a full houre, seeming to be extreamly pleasd with what I had so early thought on. The Queene was now in her Cavaliers riding habite, hat & feather & horsemans Coate, going to take the aire; so I took leave of his Majestie & visiting the Duke of Albemarle, now newly return’d from Sea, I went home.


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