Monday, 10 January 2011

Famous fire

On this day…..173 years ago, one of London’s most famous buildings, the Royal Exchange, was burned down. The building had no nightwatchman , so it was not until flames were bursting out of the windows that they were spotted from the Bank of England across the street.

January 10, 1838 was a very cold night, and when the firemen arrived they found that the plugs in the water mains from which they drew off supplies had frozen solid. This delayed their efforts considerably, and soon the whole of the front of the building was ablaze.

Porters hurled furniture and documents into the street to the cheers of the big crowd that had now gathered. They cheered even louder when a bag of gold sovereigns was thrown out. Inside firemen did their best but eventually they were driven back by the heat and smoke, and the building was virtually destroyed.

It was the second time the Royal Exchange had been burned down – the first being during the Great Fire of 1666. Once again, it was soon rebuilt. For the full story, see London’s Disasters: from Boudicca to the Banking Crisis.

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