In September 1666 most of the City of London was destroyed by fire. Consequently there is little that has survived from before that catastrophe. However, just as a fingerprint comes back after the skin has been damaged, so pre-Fire London makes its presence felt in today’s City. This is not just in surviving buildings and the street layout though. There are many echoes of Roman and medieval London which proclaim to the visitor that London has ancient roots which still pump life into this historic city.
Exploring London Before the Fire
As a medievalist by education (MA Medieval Studies and a PhD in Old English literature), I feel the resonances of pre-Fire London keenly. Many medieval moments intrude into my tours, but the following tours are set specifically in the pre-Fire period.
Before the Fire
A Settlement Called Londinium This is an exploration of the growth of the Roman settlement which became London. It shows how a riverside settlement with no status grew to become the capital of the Roman province of Britannia. A second tour is planned to explore the rise in bourgeois Londinium in the third century.
Before the Make-Over This tour tunes into echoes of Plantagenet and Tudor London which resonate in today’s City. What’s more, it features two genuinely medieval buildings!
A Question of Supremacy This is the story of Henry VIII’s establishment of himself as Supreme Head of the English Church. It is told through the fates, often grisly, of men at the heart of the matter.
Shakespeare – Take Him for All in All A ‘companion to Shakespeare’ tour which considers aspects of the London where William Shakespeare built his career as poet, playwright and courtier.
And what about the Great Fire itself?
A Most Horrid Flame We follow the story of the catastrophe which destroyed the City of London, asking how a City used to fires could succumb to the flames.
Picture of the entrance to Charterhouse, Smithfield © 2016 Fay Bennett