1666, a rather ominous year if you stop and think about it. It certainly turned out to be so for those unfortunate enough to be in London on the 2nd of September.
At one o’clock in the morning a shady young man, hiding his face beneath a hood, let himself into the premises of one Thomas Farriner, baker. Within minutes he had lit the oven, leaving the door ajar and making certain that the wood propped up nearby was close enough to catch the spark he knew would soon fall upon it. He stayed long enough to fan the flames, ensuring the fire did not go out then quietly left the building and hid himself in the cobbled alley to watch his handiwork take hold.
As smoke filled the baker’s house he caught sight of the family climbing from an upstairs window and scrambling across the rooftop to their neighbour’s house. The fire was already burning merrily and from nowhere a breeze sprang up carrying small glowing embers into the air and dropping them on the tinder dry warehouses of Pudding Lane, all of them filled with highly flammable oil, pitch, rope and timber.
Satisfied his work was done, Malachi detached himself from the shadows and hurried away.
As the fire spread people grabbed what they could carry and ran to the river to load their belongings on boats or made for the city gates and the fields beyond where they set up camp in makeshift tents. The quickest way to stop the fire spreading was to pull down the buildings, but the wind carried the flames across the gaps. On the third day they began to blow houses up in order to get the job done quicker.
Thousands of businesses and homes were destroyed along with eighty nine churches including St Paul’s Cathedral and it took fifty years to rebuild the city. Officially only six people were recorded as dying in the fire, though many more went unreported. The first to die was Farriner’s maid.
When asked afterwards Farriner swore he had put out his oven and made sure all doors and windows were shut before retiring to bed, but he did mention that his maid had spurned the advances of a particularly handsome gentleman in a dazzling white suit no more than two days before the catastrophe.
Above is the fictional account of how Malachi, central character in my novel Immortal and the man who does Lucifer’s dirty work for him, caused one of the most famous events in British history. You can read more about Malachi and his part in history’s tragedies and catastrophes in Immortal.