Bonus Episode 24 - The Great Fire of London with Ben

Jun 22 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie invites a friend he has made in Sydney on to the show to talk about The Great Fire of London. This was a significant moment in history that is well worth learning about as the city you know today was shaped by the devastation this event caused. So, welcome to a history episode that is packed full of British English and interesting facts about the past.

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MEET TODAY'S GUEST

Ben Marks
An Australian friend of Charlie's who studied History at University and actually remembers what he was taught in school. 👏
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Transcript of Bonus Episode 024 - Transcript

Ben:
Uh. You know, your voice breaks in the middle. That's where you talk from. So that's the point of most tension. That's actually when you want to smooth that out. So you actually go up and down there. It's like breaking up a muscle.

Charlie:
I still like my: How now brown cow. How now brown cow. Really opens the mouth. Stretches...

Ben:
Peter Piper picked. Lucius Luccus... Okay, that's enough.

Charlie:
Welcome to the British English podcast, everybody. Today's episode is the first of a kind. It's more about the information side of things, but we're going to keep it conversational still. And this one, as you might have read already, is about the Great Fire of London. Dung, dung, dung. And because I don't know that much or I didn't know anything until I researched it, I brought my good friend Ben, who lives in Australia with me at the moment in Balmain. I'm not going to say his actual address for security reasons, but yeah, Ben has a bit of insider knowledge about this, so I thought we would get him on and have a conversation about the Great Fire of London. How are you doing, Ben?

Ben:
Oh, I'm very good, Charlie. How are you?

Charlie:
Yeah, your voice warmed up now?

Ben:
Yes, yes. We were doing some some great warming up techniques earlier, weren't we?

Charlie:
Yes, we were. Yes. Yeah. Good. Okay, why do you know about this stuff, firstly?

Ben:
Well, first of all, I studied history at uni, I did an arts degree and I've always found history very interesting. But specifically when I went to London, I was quite fascinated with the way that it was built and sort of the the road plan and the road map of everything. And I tried to delve into why it was the way that it was. And I sort of started to unravel quite a bit of interesting history.

Charlie:
Nice. And when you say you went to London, when was that in your life?

Ben:
Okay, so I went to London when I was 21 years old. I am 33 now. It was part of a broader trip through London, but I was actually very lucky. I got to stay in a house in Kensington.

Charlie:
Nice!

Ben:
Which is a very posh and salubrious part of London.

Charlie:
Good word. Good word. Salubrious, yes.

Ben:
And I was very lucky because a friend of mine who I was travelling with, his father is a property developer and he had just bought this big old mansion and we were allowed to house-sit it for six weeks at Christmas time.

Charlie:
Goodness me. Oh, so you got the whole experience of Christmas in London?

Ben:
Yes, it was fascinating. It was amazing. It was very atmospheric. We had a cobblestone lane out the back and plenty of fog. So it was very atmospheric, walking up to the house after a night at the pub.

Charlie:
I like the fact that you had fog.

Ben:
Yes, it was it was great because we had a huge downstairs area which actually used to be used as the kitchen by the servants of the aristocrat that owned the house. So we had the servants sleeping quarters upstairs and the kitchens downstairs, but we had this whole four storey terrace to ourselves. It was great. We had a big Christmas dinner in the downstairs area and we invited a whole bunch of random people from the local pub.

Charlie:
To be some of your servants?

Ben:
Yes, yes.

Charlie:
Did you sleep in the servants quarters?

Ben:
No, no. I took the master bedroom actually. I shotgunned it first.

Charlie:
That's a good phrase. Shotgunned it first. Can you explain that one?

Ben:
Okay. So I don't know if it's an Australian phrase, but it's a phrase we use in the English language, which basically means you've called the right to have something over somebody else. So for example, when you're walking towards the car, someone's driving and there are two other people, everyone wants to sit in the passenger seat. So if you call shotgun, you get the passenger seat first.

Charlie:
Exactly. Yeah. And I actually think I remember why this originated. It was to do with hunting and the person in the passenger seat got to use the shotgun to hunt.

Ben:
Ah!

Charlie:
It was advantageous to get that good seat to shoot the deer or whatever they were hunting.

Ben:
Wow. Okay, that's a bit of interesting history there. I love those bits of interesting history to do with English phraseology. There's a very interesting one. Do you know where the phrase put a sock in it came from? Well, first of all, shall we explain what put a sock in it means?

Charlie:
Yes. So put a sock in it. That means to stop talking, right?

Ben:
Yes.

Charlie:
In a rude way.

Ben:
Yes. Well, do you know where that came from?

Charlie:
No,

Ben:
It came from the old gramophones in the 1920s. They didn't have a volume knob. In order to control the volume, they would stuff a sock down the big gramophone speaker.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's really good. I like that one. That's very visual and that means it's very easy to remember. So guys, think of the gramophone and the sock, maybe even Ben's sock. Would you say that your sock is clean or dirty?

Ben:
Right now it's relatively clean. I've only just put them on. But I have been walking around the studio in my socks, so they're probably quite dirty now.

Charlie:
All right. So semi clean, semi clean sock of Ben's in the gramophone. Very good. Put a sock in it. Shut up. Basically. All right. Let's go on to the theme of today's episode, which is The Great Fire of London. So Ben knows a lot about this, so I'm going to hand it over to him to begin with. And you said that you wanted to go over when London was established?

Ben:
Yeah, that's right. I thought that it would be helpful to go over the establishment of London, also because it's important to understand the city walls of old London in relation to the events of the fire of London. So London was established by the Romans and the Roman Empire in around A.D. 47 to 50, so almost 2000 years ago. So in 2050, we can celebrate London's 2,000th birthday.

Charlie:
Wow. And to be appropriate, we would say a different word, wouldn't we? The original word of London.

Ben:
Ah, yes. So London was originally called Londinium, which is a Latin word. Now, London came about because the local Britons, when they were trying to pronounce London in their accent, started to say 'Lundain'.

Charlie:
Wow, 'Lundain',

Ben:
'Lundain'.

Charlie:
And then that became London.

Ben:
Today's London.

Charlie:
Today's London. And in Italy, they say, Londra.

Ben:
I'm not sure, but I'll take your word for it.

Charlie:
I think so. Londra. So Londinium?

Ben:
Yes. And in that time, the Romans basically built a fortification around the city. And that was the original defensive wall of London.

Charlie:
Right.

Ben:
And that covered the rough area of what is today's city of London.

Charlie:
Okay. And today's City of London, guys, if you're walking around the city yourself, think of the north side of the Thames and you've got the Tower of London to the east, and then the London Transport Museum, Somerset House, London Transport Museum to the west side of it. So those are the kind of the borders of City of London. And then it goes just shy of Farringdon and Finsbury and Whitechapel. So if you're in that area, that whole bit got burned down, right?

Ben:
Yeah, about 80% of the old city of London, within the old walls, the mediaeval city got burnt down. Now the city of London was abandoned by the Romans when the Roman Empire fell in the fifth century and continued to build up of its own accord. In the 18th century, the old city walls were eventually torn down in order to help traffic flow. But they did exist during the fire of London.

Charlie:
Okay. Right. So, yeah, now we've set the the idea of it all. Let's talk about the actual fire of London or the great fire of London. And do you know anything about there being other fires before that? Were there?

Ben:
Yeah, I believe there were several fires before it. There was one in the 1300s and there was a couple in the early 1600s, but nothing to the extent of the fire that tore through London in 1666.

Charlie:
There we go, 1666.

Ben:
The fire basically started on midnight of the 2nd of September. That was a Sunday. And it went for four days until Wednesday, the fifth, or some people say the the sixth of Thursday. And the fire started at a bakery in Pudding Lane.

Charlie:
Pudding Lane.

Ben:
Yes. You can actually still see a monument that was erected after the fire of London, right near Pudding Lane today.

Charlie:
Okay. So Pudding Lane still exists, even though it was burnt to the ground.

Ben:
Yes. Yes. And we can get into why that is in a little bit. Yeah.

Charlie:
Oh, teaser! I like it. Yeah.

Ben:
So the fire started at a bakery in Pudding Lane owned by a baker called Thomas Farnier. And the fire then spread, ultimately taking 13,500 houses, 87 parishes and churches, 44 company halls, the Royal Exchange, the Custom House, St Paul's Cathedral, which is old St Paul's Cathedral, not the current one.

Charlie:
Yeah. That was rebuilt because of it, wasn't it?

Ben:
Exactly, yes.

Charlie:
I heard that it got so hot that it actually melted the metal framework of that ceiling.

Ben:
Yes. Yes. So the ceiling was made of lead at the time. And basically it was one of the few buildings inside the city walls that wasn't immediately combustible because everything inside the city walls was made from wood and thatch roofing, but the cathedral was made of stone and lead roofing. But what happened the year prior to 1666 was that King Charles II had commissioned a restoration of St Paul's Cathedral by Sir Thomas Wren, and so the cathedral was surrounded by wooden scaffolding.

Charlie:
Oh, King Charles.

Ben:
How's that for timing?

Charlie:
So that's... I mean, he did the right thing, I suppose, thinking, you know, let's fix this guy up. This thing needs a bit of attention.

Ben:
Well, if it wasn't for that wooden scaffolding, I dare say that the St Paul's Cathedral would... The old St Paul's Cathedral would still be around today.

Charlie:
Was it predominantly made of lead or that was just the ceiling?

Ben:
That was just the ceiling. The rest was a stone structure. And what made St Paul's very combustible was that because of the way that it was built in stone and it had a lead ceiling and it actually had quite a wide plaza around it, open plaza almost acting as a natural firebreak, everyone in the city piled all the books and all of the combustible elements that they wanted to save inside St Paul's to keep it.

Charlie:
Oh!

Ben:
But then eventually a stray spark hit the scaffolding and the whole thing caught alight.

Charlie:
And yeah, that's really interesting. The fire break, that was the main thing that they tried to use from what I was reading to prevent the spread. Right?

Ben:
Yes. So the old fire fighting techniques at the time were basically they were basically a combination of hooking into the the piping system under the ground, which were wooden pipes made from elm and pumping water out and pulling down houses in order to stop the spread of fire to create an artificial firebreak.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah. They used these, these hooks, I think these long sticks with hooks on them and they would pull the actual ceiling, the thatched roofing down to create a gap.

Ben:
Yes, that's right, Yes.

Charlie:
And I also heard that because of the way that they built storeys, like the levels on top of each other, they built it wider each storey.

Ben:
That's right.

Charlie:
And if you think of a lane guys with houses on either side, the fourth storey of both sides was almost touching, wasn't it?

Ben:
That's right. So the reason they built the houses like that was because they had limited space on the narrow streets below and they wanted to maximise the tenant space in the buildings. So instead of encroaching on the street below, they would encroach and come outwards on the levels above to the point where the buildings were nearly touching. So there was no real firebreak between any of these houses.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
And that's why the fire was able to spread so quickly.

Charlie:
Another technique I heard about was the fireman's chain. Very simple technique.

Ben:
Yes. They basically would take leather buckets down to the Thames and they would have a chain of hundreds of volunteers and they would chain leather buckets of water up the chain and throw it on the fire and then bring the buckets back down to the water and go back up.

Charlie:
Yeah, right. But wouldn't they, like, make a chain of humans, like passing it from one to the other?

Ben:
Yes, that's right. Yeah. So they would take these leather buckets from from the water source all the way up to the fire and then back down like a conveyor belt.

Charlie:
Yeah. So they're all stationary and then they just pass it for a person. Yes.

Ben:
And actually the reason that they couldn't do this, the outbreak of the fire, was due to inaction by the then Lord Mayor of the town.

Charlie:
Yeah. Thomas Bloodworth.

Ben:
Thomas Bloodworth, yes. He was a considered by his contemporaries to be a relatively ineffective yes-man. At the time when the fire started, he didn't give the fire brigade or the fire fighters permission to pull down any of the surrounding houses. Now, there was a very important reason for this because he needed orders from King Charles, he needed a royal decree, otherwise he would have personally been liable for the cost of the property.

Charlie:
Yeah, that makes sense because I heard that he was disturbed in the middle of the night because it was in the middle of the night that the fire started and somebody came up to him and said, Lord Mayor, we need to pull these buildings down. And he apparently said, Pish, a woman could piss it out.

Ben:
Yes, yes. A very famous, very famous exaltation. Is that a good word?

Charlie:
Maybe. Yeah.

Ben:
So, yeah, there's actually an interesting reason for his inaction, his inaction, though. Although his contemporaries blamed him, one of the the main pieces of context that we need to point out here is that previously we'd just had the Civil War in England. So the Civil War, for anybody who doesn't know, was when the anti royalists or the Republicans tried, did in fact overthrow the king and take control under Oliver Cromwell. And after a short period, Oliver Cromwell lost control to the Royals again, the Royal Army, and he was beheaded and the royals took back control under Charles II.

Charlie:
He was beheaded? Right. So that's what happens when...

Ben:
When you try and overthrow your your royal guardians.

Charlie:
Okay, yeah.

Ben:
So don't... If you're in England, do not try and overthrow the queen.

Charlie:
No.

Ben:
She will behead you in the town square.

Charlie:
Yeah. Or worse, maybe do what they did to Guy Fawkes.

Ben:
What did they do to Guy Fawkes?

Charlie:
They put him on a... Weirdly I feel like it's comfortable because they put him on a chair. Normally, I think they would put somebody on a spike or something, but I think they put him on a chair atop a bonfire and then lit him and.

Ben:
Oh, I thought did the, the what is it. Drawing and quartering.

Charlie:
Oh yeah. Hung, drawn and quartered.

Ben:
Hung, drawn and quartered which was a very ghastly practise where they used to hang the the convicted. Just before they died, they would take them down and then while they were still alive, they would cut them open and take out their organs and then quarter them by horses, pulling in four different directions on their limbs.

Charlie:
I remember that one. The drawing is in the cutting.

Ben:
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Yeah, they do it at the end of Braveheart, if anybody's ever seen that. That's what's happening to Mel Gibson when he's grimacing and you can't see what's happening off screen.

Charlie:
If you're having your lunch, guys...

Ben:
I hope you enjoyed that image.

Charlie:
Okay, so there was reason for his inaction.

Ben:
Yeah. So basically, King had offered his royal troops to come into the city. Now, the city was a stronghold for the Republicans at the time, and there was still a lot of tension between the Republicans and the king. And so the king had offered his royal guards go in and help. But the city proper, the city officials and Thomas Bloodworth had rejected that help and he allowed the fire to get out of control. And unfortunately, the fire and Pudding Lane was very close to the Thames. Now, this is important because the fire very quickly got down to the Thames and set fire to the the water wheels, which would spin the water and and push it through the piping systems that they would use traditionally to help put out fires.

Charlie:
Okay. So they didn't have a way to put out the fire that they would normally use.

Ben:
That's right.

Charlie:
I also heard something about the fact that because of the wind, it was very quick to spread in the wrong direction, and there was lots of flammable products around the Thames because of the docking and the shipping. And there was some sort of I can't remember the paste that they used to use, but it was really flammable stuff. And it would just...

Ben:
Yeah. So the docks were a place where merchants would pick up goods. So there was a lot of warehouses and storehouses down there that had a lot of highly flammable materials, a lot of paper, but they also contained a lot of gunpowder because ships would take gunpowder at that time to the conflict with the Dutch.

Charlie:
Right, yes.

Ben:
And there were a lot of private residences that still had gunpowder in the city because they were worried about another conflict with the royals.

Charlie:
Uh aha. And you said about off off... While we weren't recording, you were saying about the Dutch and how - were we at war?

Ben:
During this fire, there was the Anglo... England was in the middle of the Anglo-Dutch conflict, so they were basically, without going into it too much, they were at war with the Dutch. Now this is an interesting point. This leads to an interesting point. During the fire of London, a lot of the locals who had been dispossessed from their homes started to look for a scapegoat. And what one of the rumours that... One of the rumours that was circling was that this was an international terrorist plot by the Dutch and the French to destroy London as a precursor to an invasion. Now, the reason this came about is not just because of the current context of the war, but what was happening was the the London fire was so big and the wind was so strong that the embers from the fire were being pushed over into random areas well away from the fire and starting localised fires outside of the main, the main area of the spread of the fire. So people thought that these fires were being set deliberately. And so what happened was it actually led to on the Wednesday, on the Tuesday and Wednesday, it led to led to a lot of street violence against local immigrant populations of French and Dutch in the streets. People were beaten to death with metal poles. People were lynched in the streets. There was a lot of mob violence.

Charlie:
Whoa. And the fire, although it was humungous, it didn't actually. Well, according to some, it didn't actually kill that many.

Ben:
No. Well, the initial estimates of the fire were put at a couple of hundred, but more recently, the estimates have been put at a few thousand.

Charlie:
Okay. I read even like nine people died. Ostensibly only nine people died. I liked that word.

Ben:
Ostensibly, that's a good one. Well, there's actually we've also got to take into account the refugee camps that were set up outside the walls of London. At this time, we're in September, so we were moving through to winter. And a lot of these makeshift camps were not good protection from the colds of winter. And a lot of people starved and died of cold.

Charlie:
Okay. But that was indirect.

Ben:
Indirectly. Yes, that's true. That's true.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. I heard that one of the people at the bakery was the first victim.

Ben:
Yes, it was a maid, I believe, who worked in the bakery who was too scared to leave the property. And she became the first victim of the fire.

Charlie:
Uh, I'm going to make a very indecent comment. She should have pissed it out.

Ben:
Well, maybe that's what he was getting at.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Okay, so we're going to leave the first part of this episode here. We're going to continue with everything and more in part two and part three.

Charlie:
All right. Welcome back to part two, guys. Thank you very much for joining us. Yeah, we're going to continue with the great fire of London. And Ben, you were telling me that there was an important point that we kind of skimmed across and we should take a bit more time over. And that was the fact that or why it was that the fire spread so quickly and why it was so damaging.

Ben:
Yes. Well, basically, London was incredibly combustible because everything in London was built from wood and thatched rooves.

Charlie:
Thatched roofs are...

Ben:
Thatched roofs are roofs made of straw. So if you've been walking around London, you can actually see a version of what these houses were inside the Tower of London. They're the only houses remaining from that period inside London that you can look at.

Charlie:
What, they're actually still standing?

Ben:
Still standing inside the Tower of London. So they are those Tudor style houses. They're white on the outside with the black cross beams.

Charlie:
Yeah. My friend lived in one of them.

Ben:
Yeah. So if you were interested in you're in London and you want to see what London used to look like and what the housing used to look like. Go inside the Tower of London and you can see some of the houses that were untouched by the fire. The guard at the Tower of London managed to save the Tower of London from the fire by utilising the vast swathes of gunpowder that it had at its disposal. And it destroyed massive amounts of buildings in front of the Tower of London and created a firebreak that saved the Tower of London.

Charlie:
Aha. Would this guy be a name named Pepys?

Ben:
No. So Peeps or Pepys? Peeps?

Charlie:
I don't... P - E - E - P.

Ben:
Oh, Samuel Pepys. Okay. Samuel Pepys had a diary. Yes.

Charlie:
Dear diary. Dear diary. My diary is on fire.

Ben:
Dear diary. It's rather hot outside for for coming into Christmas time. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I shall go outside and see. So, So Pepys' diary... Pepys was a guy who basically kept a diary from 1960 to 1969. And he is the reason that we know so much about the events across the four days of of the fire of London. He kept a very detailed diary and he often went to high places to have a look at the city. And he details the burning of the city and the destruction that he saw.

Charlie:
Imagine if it was all a hoax, like he just made it up. But we have evidence that supports it, right?

Ben:
The fire of London. Yeah, yes. Yes. We can walk through a city today that has none of the old mediaeval buildings in it. So yeah. Pepys is yeah... Great, great bringing him up because he is actually the primary source, the fundamental primary source as to how we know so much about the events that transpired over those four days.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. And going back to the thatched roofing. Did they learn a lesson?

Ben:
Yes, we did learn a lesson from that. After the Great Fire of London, it was decreed by the king in an act that no more housing or buildings would be constructed with wood and thatching. They would now have to be constructed with stones and bricks.

Charlie:
Right. Especially bakeries.

Ben:
Especially bakeries. Funny, funny fact about the bakery, actually, because it was on Pudding Lane, the church said that this - the Catholic Church, I believe in Rome, I think it was, don't quote me on that one. But it was the Catholic Church somewhere in Europe said that this was God's wrath for the English gluttony because it started in a pie shop.

Charlie:
Did they not have pie shops in these other countries?

Ben:
Well, you know what the church is like. Yeah. So they were always smiting each other, weren't they? Different church denominations were always saying, this is punishment for you not being part of our church.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay.

Ben:
Yeah. So basically the London that you see today is constructed mostly in limestone and bricks because of the act that was enacted after the fire, that all buildings had to be built that way. And that's why London looks the way that it does today.

Charlie:
And limestone, because there was a lot of it?

Ben:
Yes. Well, here in Australia we have a lot of buildings built out of sandstone and that's because Sydney is on a bed of sandstone, whereas London is on a bit of limestone. So you utilise the rock that's close by I suppose.

Charlie:
Yeah. Be funny if it was the other way round. No. Really want sandstone. Go get it.

Ben:
That's why they founded Australia. Not really, not really. Yeah. So that was very important. The other thing that happened after the fire was that there were a bunch of plans that were put forward by various architects of the time, including Sir Thomas Wren, who eventually built a lot of the churches that you see in London today. And he rebuilt St Paul's Cathedral.

Charlie:
Is his name...

Ben:
I mean, it's, pardon me. It's Sir Christopher Wren.

Charlie:
I was literally looking at that point when you said that. So that's the only reason I know that.

Ben:
So I've got the mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, in my head.

Charlie:
Bloody bloodworth.

Ben:
Bloody Bloodworth. Christopher Wren along with.

Charlie:
Was he a sir? Is he a sir?

Ben:
Yes, Sir Christopher Wren. I think he was knighted after the fact though. He was one of a few architects that put forward plans for the rebuilding of London that basically completely destroyed the old mediaeval street patterns that had existed there up until the fire. Now, these plans basically displayed wider boulevards, much wider streets. And a lot of them, including Wren's, had almost a grid pattern, like sort of like the way New York is today. Ultimately, though, these plans would have been... These plans would have been better for safety and for traffic, but they were rejected because the Crown would have had to buy up so much land in order to make these huge boulevards that they just couldn't afford it, especially since they were at war with the Dutch. So what they managed to do was have just enough money. By taxing coal, they put an extra tax on coal, they generated just enough money to buy strips of land in order to widen the streets. But all of the building occurred on the existing mediaeval street pattern. So as you walk around London today, the streets that you're walking on are, for the most part, the old mediaeval street... Is the old mediaeval street design from as long as we can remember London.

Charlie:
Yeah, right. Okay. Or Londinium.

Ben:
Londinium Yes. Whereas if you go to Paris, there are massive boulevards there because in the 1800s Paris was completely rebuilt and redesigned.

Charlie:
Why was that?

Ben:
Because of sanitary reasons, I believe. I think there was a lot of poo in the streets. People were getting very sick and there was just traffic congestion and it was just all around filthy and a bad design in many ways. So Houser, I think, was his name was the architect charged with redesigning Paris. And that's why you have these huge grand boulevards these days. It might have been the 1700s, but it was certainly after the great fire of London.

Charlie:
Okay. And talking of cleanliness, I hear that people credited the rebuilding of London to be one of the reasons why the plague was ended.

Ben:
Yes. Yes, that's true. So in... It was a funny period. It's sort of like how we've gone from... We've lurched from one disaster to the next in the last few years. This is sort of what was happening at that time. So in 1665, London was experiencing an extreme resurgence of the plague. Everyone was getting sick and dying. In 1666, we had the Great Fire and after the Great Fire, the plague was largely eradicated. At least that massive amount of sickness was eradicated. And they think this was because all of the unsanitary conditions that existed in these old houses and the rats and the fleas that passed on the plague, they were all burnt to ashes. So ultimately they think that the great fire of London ended up saving many more lives. So there you go. Next time we have a COVID outbreak, let's just burn the city to the ground.

Charlie:
Yeah, that would be a different argument for the anti-vaxxers, wouldn't it?

Ben:
I think we should get out there. Here in Australia this... this Saturday we have an election, so I'm going to be on the hustings.

Charlie:
And I can legally vote. And you've got one vote coming your way.

Ben:
Yes, thank you. Thank you. I've got my first vote. So all listeners, please vote one burn Sydney down party.

Charlie:
Only if there's a COVID outbreak. Yeah, yeah. You can't just go burning cities down for no reason.

Ben:
You know, you can. You can say what you want to justify anything, can't you? If we look at London today, outside of the boundaries of London, we we have many dense suburbs. These suburbs at the time existed. So the inner city of London within the walls was only one quarter of the area of London at that time.

Charlie:
Aha.

Ben:
So we did have existing suburbs there but they were sparse and there were a lot of fields. So when you're walking through London these days, you'll probably notice a lot of suburbs that are named something field or something common or blah blah blah. And that's because they were literal fields being toiled and crops were being grown and all this sort of thing. These suburbs became much more densely populated after the fire because King Charles second was worried about a new uprising after this event. They had just gone through one, obviously, where his... where the previous king, I don't know whether it was his father or not, had been beheaded. So he was very worried. He basically encouraged every Londoner to move out into the towns and the other localities outside of London and the surrounding suburbs subsequently got either created or became more densely populated into the suburbs that we know today.

Charlie:
Right. There we go. Yeah. Yeah. Weird, though, to think that you can be living in, like, a big field and then they could get on the underground and just go straight into the central.

Ben:
Yeah, well, the underground was one of the first things that went during the Great Fire.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, I can imagine it.

Ben:
Yeah. The Romans put the London Underground in there in 57 A.D..

Charlie:
Yeah. With a 'boop' kind of payment system.

Ben:
Yeah. And they were the Romans were the ones who introduced 'Please Mind the Gap'.

Charlie:
I heard something that came out of this was organised fire brigades.

Ben:
That's right. So the fire fighting units that were originally in London were very ramshackle. After the fire we saw the development of the very first insurance companies. So there was a physician who created the first fire insurance company and in that insurance company he basically hired a private fire fighting force that would be sent to the houses of insurance holders or policyholders.

Charlie:
To pull the houses down.

Ben:
To combat fire. To combat fire for policyholders.

Charlie:
Oh, I see. If their... If their house was on fire.

Ben:
Basically, if you bought a policy, if you're wealthy enough to buy a policy, you got given access to a private firefighting force that would come and save your property.

Charlie:
Wow.

Ben:
You also got a cheaper policy if you built your house out of fire resistant materials.

Charlie:
Makes sense.

Ben:
Yeah. So basically what happened was these insurance companies built up in number and I think it was in the 1800s, there was so much confusion between all of the different firefighting forces that they all came together and created the London Fire Brigade. And that's the fire brigade that exists today.

Charlie:
Right. There we go. So, yeah, insurance companies kind of were born out of the Great Fire of London?

Charlie:
And that was the end of part two. But we've still got part three. Even more fun to be had with this episode, and I'll see you in Part three.

Charlie:
All right. We are on to part three, the last part of the show. I hope you have enjoyed it so far, but let's still enjoy the last of it, shall we? So I give you part three of this episode. Could we say?

Ben:
Yes. Absolutely, we could say that. I believe they were the first insurance companies in the world. The other the other world first that came out of the fire were the very first building codes where buildings had to be built specifically to a certain code in order to prevent this fire event from occurring again. So it had to be built out of stone and various materials and there was no wood to be on the outside of any buildings. If you walk around London today, you'd probably see very minimal wood on the outside of any buildings. And it also brought about the very first building inspectors who were sent around to look at buildings and approve their viability.

Charlie:
Wow. You really live and you learn, don't you?

Ben:
Yes, yes.

Charlie:
Or you die. And then the next person learns.

Ben:
Yes, that's right. Now, Charlie, have you ever walked across the London Bridge?

Charlie:
I have, yes.

Ben:
Now, did you know that that bridge used to be covered in houses?

Charlie:
What, on the actual bridge?

Ben:
On the actual bridge.

Charlie:
I don't think I did.

Ben:
Well, there was a ode to that in Game of Thrones if anyone's seen Game of Thrones, where Tyrion is walking across a bridge with a whole bunch of houses lurching over.

Charlie:
Okay.

Ben:
That's just for any Game of Thrones fans out there. But yes, there were businesses and wooden houses all along London Bridge and they got burnt down in the fire. Now, how do you say the suburb to the south? Is it Southwark?

Charlie:
Southwark, yeah.

Ben:
Southwark was the suburb on the South Bank. The fire didn't reach there because there was luckily a break between the houses and the South Bank, enough that the fire wasn't able to cross and catch onto anything else.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. But yeah, I just Googled that Game of Thrones, London Bridge kind of thing, and I can't believe how many houses they've got on there. I know it's fiction, that one, but maybe it's based on...

Ben:
I believe it's based on the way that London Bridge used to look, yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. No wonder it caught alight. Are you saying that that could have brought the fire close to the...

Ben:
Well, they were very lucky that the fire didn't spread across onto the South London Bank and the... Because the whole lot of housing on that bridge was burnt to a cinder and had it gone all the way across and been within throwing distance or as we like to say in Australia, within spitting distance.

Charlie:
Oh, disgusting.

Ben:
Yes, yes. Well, Australians are known for much disgusting vernacular.

Charlie:
That's really funny because we we say a stone's throw away.

Ben:
Yeah. And of course Australians say within spitting distance.

Charlie:
That's a really good idiomatic comparison of cultures.

Ben:
Like for example we say you might say we're up at first light, but we say we're up at sparrow's fart.

Charlie:
Sparrow's fart.

Ben:
That's first thing in the morning.

Charlie:
That's a shame because do sparrows fart though? I suppose they might have to break wind from time to time.

Ben:
I suppose they might.

Charlie:
We're going to get too gross, so yeah. Okay. Okay. Yeah. That's another example of terrible yeah language. So I, I lied to you and I didn't actually tell you when we were going to split from part two and part three. So we have come towards the tail end of part three now. Is there anything else that you feel like you want to get off your chest?

Ben:
Well, sure. I could just lastly talk about Christopher Wren. He was not Thomas Wren. Christopher Wren. He was a mathematician and physicist who was commissioned by King Charles to help in the rebuild of the public buildings in London. So this was essentially 51 churches, which included the building of the new St Paul's Cathedral. And the dome that we see today is a result of his design. Before the dome, the old St Paul's actually had a very thin, tall spire, which I believe went up 500 feet.

Charlie:
Yes. And it was one of the tallest buildings or the tallest building in Europe.

Ben:
I wouldn't be surprised. 500 feet was very tall for that period. So, yeah, he was responsible for the dome and the new St Paul's Cathedral that we see today. The dome actually has been copied across the world, most notably in Washington, DC, on the Capitol building.

Charlie:
Oh, yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah. That was designed to mimic the dome on St Paul's Cathedral. So that's a little bit of interesting international trivia there.

Charlie:
Yeah, definitely.

Ben:
So, yeah, he was commissioned to rebuild 51 churches across London. So basically any of the churches you see within central London were designed by Christopher Wren or his firm. He probably employed quite a few.

Charlie:
Yeah. Not just him, I suppose.

Ben:
Yeah. Another interesting thing is that most private rebuilding was done within the first three years, but it did take quite a bit longer for public buildings to be commissioned. And that's not surprising considering how long it takes to build anything government based, even these days. But that was accelerated massively after 1770 because of the coal tax. And Christopher Wren was responsible for a few other very important buildings, including the Royal Observatory, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court.

Charlie:
He was a busy boy, wasn't he?

Ben:
Yes, he was.

Charlie:
And talented. They're beautiful buildings.

Ben:
Very talented. Yes. Yes, amazing. There was also... Access to the river was made crucial in order to be able to access water for the fires from that time onwards. So that's why we're able to walk along the Thames so easily, because houses were not allowed to be built there and there was not allowed to be any obstruction to the waterway.

Charlie:
All the way along. Because I noticed when I walk along the harbour in Sydney sometimes it's blocked off to private property and the gardens and stuff. I think you said something about there being a manifesto or something to try and change that.

Ben:
Over the years there's been a lot of people who have advocated for taking back public land. There's always been an idea in Sydney that we should be able to, as citizens, walk along every part of waterfront land. You should theoretically be able to walk around the whole harbour if you wanted to. Unfortunately, there's a lot of private property and private beaches. Yeah, but yes, I think they got it right in London.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, I like that. Yeah. Nice. Right. Anything else about Wren?

Ben:
Well, I don't think I have much more about Wren. I can say that there was a lot of things that were destroyed by the fire. I did go over that, didn't I? Ah, okay. I can say that there was 9 to £10 million of damage, which today equals £1.72 billion. And it did leave 100,000 homeless.

Charlie:
100,000? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've got that as well. Yeah.

Ben:
And at the time, London's population was 300 to 400000. And what is it today? It's about 12 million. 8 million.

Charlie:
I think less eight. Nearly nine now.

Ben:
Wow. Yes.

Charlie:
Um, but I did hear that it goes up 60% on the weekend.

Ben:
Okay. I can imagine that it's a very transient city, isn't it? I will say that since COVID, I mean, Sydney is a small city. I mean, it's what, four and a half, five, five and a half million. And we've got a lot of land here. I mean, Sydney is very spread out and during COVID when we weren't allowing any international travellers, you could go down to the beach, you could go down to Darling Harbour, any of the famous spots here, and there was no one around. And what that indicates to me is that the vast majority of people in Sydney in these major areas are not Sydneysiders.

Charlie:
Or it was because we were in lockdown and you weren't meant to be out.

Ben:
Ah, yes. Well, not all of us obeyed the law. This isn't going out to any local police, is it?

Charlie:
I do actually. Do I have a policeman? There's a...

Ben:
Do I have a policeman?

Charlie:
I have, I own now there's an academy member at the moment who is in the Navy, I think. I think he's Brazilian and he's gone over to London. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, he won't arrest you. Don't worry, you're safe.

Ben:
Oh, thank you. Thank God.

Charlie:
Of that 100,000, I think you mentioned earlier that they were homeless and then they went on the outskirts and they were camping.

Ben:
Yes, they were. So there were a lot of makeshift camps set up. Now, I haven't been to this particular park. I'm just trying to find it here. I had it written down. Nope, I can't find it. But basically there was some major parks in London that you can walk through now that were basically formed because they were settlements for the the tent colonies. And a lot of that population growth in the outer suburbs of London occurred because people had to set up their new lives. I mean, imagine this, there's no house insurance back then. So whatever got burned down, that's it. It's gone. That's your livelihood gone. So people just had to basically get on with their ruined lives and they just reset in these new areas. And that's why we have the spread of of London as it is. The centre of London. So many people moved out of living there that it actually just became the financial hub that it is today. It was always a financial hub, but that was the beginning of a process in which it transformed primarily into a financial hub and a trading centre, rather than being a place, the primary place of Londoners living.

Charlie:
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. And I hear that it took about 50 years to rebuild.

Ben:
I'm not sure about how long it took to rebuild completely. I do know that St Paul's was finished 36 years after it was begun. So St Paul's Cathedral, which was one of the biggest works, was finished in 1711.

Charlie:
I'd have to pull Christopher Wren aside and say, Look, we need to build the houses first.

Ben:
Yes, yes. So there was there was a lot of private building that was just allowed to go ahead.

Charlie:
Right. What? Rebuilding.

Ben:
Yeah, well, all the private building actually was done a lot quicker. So the vast majority of the private buildings, so private housing and so forth, was done within three years.

Charlie:
Right.

Ben:
Yeah. And the public buildings were... The public works were the things that took so long.

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
And the public, that was like St Paul's.

Ben:
Yeah. Yeah. So, so basically anything like the 51 churches, St Paul's rebuilding and palaces because there was some I think it was Blackfriars Palace that was burnt down. Whitehall wasn't burnt down. Whitehall was the residence of the King at that time. But Whitehall is just now a suburb called Whitehall. That did burn down in a fire, but not the fire of 1666, I think it was 1698 that Whitehall burned down. So now when you go through Whitehall, it's actually called Whitehall because that is where the old Whitehall Palace was.

Charlie:
But that palace got burnt down.

Ben:
It not in the Great Fire, but it did eventually get burned down. But there were other palaces that burnt down. I think there was a twin or not a twin, but it was the companion palace to the Tower of London in the West Side. If we think of the Palace of London is on the eastern side of the boundary of where the fire was.

Charlie:
The palace or tower?

Ben:
The Tower of London. Pardon me. If you go to the west, I believe there was another palace that got burnt to ashes.

Charlie:
Tower.

Ben:
No, no, there was a palace.

Charlie:
It was the palace cousin of the tower.

Ben:
That got burnt down. So I suspect that's why they commissioned Wren to build Kensington Palace and Hampton Court.

Charlie:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, he built Hampton Court?

Ben:
Kensington Palace and Hampton Court. They were his... Two of his commissions.

Charlie:
So that was when Henry VIII was around, obviously.

Ben:
I think he may have... With Hampton Court actually it may have been a addition to it. Yeah, it may have been a sizeable addition to it. That is not something I'm 100% across.

Charlie:
Henry VIII was. What year was he around? 15...

Ben:
He was in the 1500s. It was the Tudors wasn't he.

Charlie:
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And that was the period that we were talking about. The white buildings with thatch.

Ben:
Yes, yes. Yeah. So I guess Wren must have either rebuilt parts of it that got burnt down or he... It basically was a major commission of his. So he maybe he added substantially to it, I'm not sure. But he was also responsible for the Royal Observatory. He was responsible for one of the major hospitals. I can't remember which one, but you can see Wren's work dotted all throughout London.

Charlie:
Right? Okay. Well, there we go, guys. Load of information for you. And if you are in London, go and enjoy the sights and the works of Christopher Wren. Yeah, thank you very much, Ben. That was delightful.

Ben:
No worries. It was a pleasure to be here. And we can come back and do a podcast in 2050 to celebrate the 2,000th birthday of Londinium.

Charlie:
Londinium. Fantastic. I also want to do one on the great stink. Okay. Was it the great or is it just the stink, the great, wasn't it?

Ben:
Everything's the great. Isn't it great? I'm sure.

Charlie:
Great Britain, Great Stink.

Ben:
You know what? We'll work it out when we when we begin to do our our research.

Charlie:
Yes, exactly. Yeah. Was it the great stink? It was the good stink. No, it was the great stink. Yeah. All right. Well, you've been great. Thank you very much, Ben.

Ben:
Thank you very much, Charlie. I appreciate being here.

Charlie:
Yeah. All right, guys. I hope you enjoyed it. And see you next time. Bye for now.

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Transcript of SAMPLE Premium Podcast Player

Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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