John Evelyn's Diary September 1666 is in John Evelyn's Diary 1666.
John Evelyn's Diary 02 September 1666
John Evelyn's Diary 03 September 1666
03 Sep 1666. I had public prayers at home. The fire continuing, after dinner, I took coach with my wife (31) and son, and went to the Bankside in Southwark, where we beheld that dismal spectacle, the whole city in dreadful flames near the waterside; all the houses from the Bridge, all Thames street, and upward toward Cheapside, down to the Three Cranes, were now consumed; and so returned, exceedingly astonished what would become of the rest.
The fire having continued all this night (if I may call that night which was light as day for ten miles round about, after a dreadful manner), when conspiring with a fierce eastern wind in a very dry season, I went on foot to the same place; and saw the whole south part of the city burning from Cheapside to the Thames, and all along Cornhill (for it likewise kindled back against the wind as well as forward), Tower street, Fenchurch Street, Gracious street, and so along to Baynard's Castle, and was now taking hold of St. Paul's church, to which the scaffolds contributed exceedingly. The conflagration was so universal, and the people so astonished, that, from the beginning, I know not by what despondency, or fate, they hardly stirred to quench it; so that there was nothing heard, or seen, but crying out and lamentation, running about like distracted creatures, without at all attempting to save even their goods; such a strange consternation there was upon them, so as it burned both in breadth and length, the churches, public halls, Exchange, hospitals. Monuments, and ornaments; leaping after a prodigious manner, from house to house, and street to street, at great distances one from the other. For the heat, with a long set of fair and warm weather, had even ignited the air, and prepared the materials to conceive the fire, which devoured, after an incredible manner, houses, furniture, and every thing. Here, we saw the Thames covered with goods floating, all the barges and boats laden with what some had time and courage to save, as, on the other side, the carts, etc., carrying out to the fields, which for many miles were strewn with movables of all sorts, and tents erecting to shelter both people and what goods they could get away. Oh, the miserable and calamitous spectacle! such as haply the world had not seen since the foundation of it, nor can be outdone till the universal conflagration thereof. All the sky was of a fiery aspect, like the top of a burning oven, and the light seen above forty miles round about for many nights. God grant mine eyes may never behold the like, who now saw above 10,000 houses all in one flame! The noise and cracking and thunder of the impetuous flames, the shrieking of women and children, the hurry of people, the fall of towers, houses, and churches, was like a hideous storm; and the air all about so hot and inflamed, that at the last one was not able to approach it, so that they were forced to stand still, and let the flames burn on, which they did, for near two miles in length and one in breadth. The clouds also of smoke were dismal, and reached, upon computation, near fifty miles in length. Thus, I left it this afternoon burning, a resemblance of Sodom, or the last day. It forcibly called to my mind that passage—"non enim hic habemus stabilem civitatem"; the ruins resembling the picture of Troy. London was, but is no more! Thus, I returned.
John Evelyn's Diary 04 September 1666
04 Sep 1666. The burning still rages, and it is now gotten as far as the Inner Temple. All Fleet Street, the Old Bailey, Ludgate hill, Warwick lane, Newgate, Paul's chain, Watling street, now flaming, and most of it reduced to ashes; the stones of Paul's flew like grenados, the melting lead running down the streets in a stream, and the very pavements glowing with fiery redness, so as no horse, nor man, was able to tread on them, and the demolition had stopped all the passages, so that no help could be applied. The eastern wind still more impetuously driving the flames forward. Nothing but the Almighty power of God was able to stop them; for vain was the help of man.
John Evelyn's Diary 05 September 1666
05 Sep 1666. It crossed toward Whitehall; but oh! the confusion there was then at that Court! It pleased his Majesty (36) to command me, among the rest, to look after the quenching of Fetter-lane end, to preserve (if possible) that part of Holborn, while the rest of the gentlemen took their several posts, some at one part, and some at another (for now they began to bestir themselves, and not till now, who hitherto had stood as men intoxicated, with their hands across), and began to consider that nothing was likely to put a stop but the blowing up of so many houses as might make a wider gap than any had yet been made by the ordinary method of pulling them down with engines. This some stout seamen proposed early enough to have saved near the whole city, but this some tenacious and avaricious men, aldermen, etc., would not permit, because their houses must have been of the first. It was, therefore, now commended to be practiced; and my concern being particularly for the Hospital of St. Bartholomew, near Smithfield, where I had many wounded and sick men, made me the more diligent to promote it; nor was my care for the Savoy less. It now pleased God, by abating the wind, and by the industry of the people, when almost all was lost infusing a new spirit into them, that the fury of it began sensibly to abate about noon, so as it came no farther than the Temple westward, nor than the entrance of Smithfield, north: but continued all this day and night so impetuous toward Cripplegate and the Tower, as made us all despair. It also broke out again in the Temple; but the courage of the multitude persisting, and many houses being blown up, such gaps and desolations were soon made, as, with the former three days' consumption, the back fire did not so vehemently urge upon the rest as formerly. There was yet no standing near the burning and glowing ruins by near a furlong's space.
The coal and wood wharfs, and magazines of oil, rosin, etc., did infinite mischief, so as the invective which a little before I had dedicated to his Majesty (36) and published, giving warning what probably might be the issue of suffering those shops to be in the city was looked upon as a prophecy.
The poor inhabitants were dispersed about St. George's Fields, and Moorfields, as far as Highgate, and several miles in circle, some under tents, some under miserable huts and hovels, many without a rag, or any necessary utensils, bed or board, who from delicateness, riches, and easy accommodations in stately and well-furnished houses, were now reduced to extreme misery and poverty.
In this calamitous condition, I returned with a sad heart to my house, blessing and adoring the distinguishing mercy of God to me and mine, who, in the midst of all this ruin, was like Lot, in my little Zoar, safe and sound.
John Evelyn's Diary 06 September 1666
06 Sep 1666. Thursday. I represented to his Majesty (36) the case of the French prisoners at war in my custody, and besought him that there might be still the same care of watching at all places contiguous to unseized houses. It is not indeed imaginable how extraordinary the vigilance and activity of the King (36) and the Duke (32) was, even laboring in person, and being present to command, order, reward, or encourage workmen; by which he showed his affection to his people, and gained theirs. Having, then, disposed of some under cure at the Savoy, I returned to Whitehall, where I dined at Mr. Offley's [Note. Not clear who Mr Offley is? John Evelyn's (45) brother George Evelyn of Wotton 1617-1699 (49) was married to Mary Offley -1664], the groom-porter, who was my relation.
John Evelyn's Diary 07 September 1666
07 Sep 1666. I went this morning on foot from Whitehall as far as London Bridge, through the late Fleet Street, Ludgate hill by St. Paul's, Cheapside, Exchange, Bishops-gate, Aldersgate Ward, and out to Moorfields, thence through Cornhill, etc., with extraordinary difficulty, clambering over heaps of yet smoking rubbish, and frequently mistaking where I was; the ground under my feet so hot, that it even burnt the soles of my shoes. In the meantime, his Majesty (36) got to the Tower by water, to demolish the houses about the graff, which, being built entirely about it, had they taken fire and attacked the White Tower, where the magazine of powder lay, would undoubtedly not only have beaten down and destroyed all the bridge, but sunk and torn the vessels in the river, and rendered the demolition beyond all expression for several miles about the country.
At my return, I was infinitely concerned to find that goodly Church, St. Paul's — now a sad ruin, and that beautiful portico (for structure comparable to any in Europe, as not long before repaired by the late King (65)) now rent in pieces, flakes of large stones split asunder, and nothing remaining entire but the inscription in the architrave showing by whom it was built, which had not one letter of it defaced! It was astonishing to see what immense stones the heat had in a manner calcined, so that all the ornaments, columns, friezes, capitals, and projectures of massy Portland stone, flew off, even to the very roof, where a sheet of lead covering a great space (no less than six acres by measure) was totally melted. The ruins of the vaulted roof falling, broke into St. Faith's, which being filled with the magazines of books belonging to the Stationers, and carried thither for safety, they were all consumed, burning for a week following. It is also observable that the lead over the altar at the east end was untouched, and among the divers. Monuments the body of one bishop remained entire. Thus lay in ashes that most venerable church, one of the most ancient pieces of early piety in the Christian world, besides near one hundred more. The lead, ironwork, bells, plate, etc., melted, the exquisitely wrought Mercers' Chapel, the sumptuous Exchange, the august fabric of Christ Church, all the rest of the Companies' Halls, splendid buildings, arches, entries, all in dust; the fountains dried up and ruined, while the very waters remained boiling; the voragos of subterranean cellars, wells, and dungeons, formerly warehouses, still burning in stench and dark clouds of smoke; so that in five or six miles traversing about I did not see one load of timber unconsumed, nor many stones but what were calcined white as snow.
The people, who now walked about the ruins, appeared like men in some dismal desert, or rather, in some great city laid waste by a cruel enemy; to which was added the stench that came from some poor creatures' bodies, beds, and other combustible goods. Sir Thomas Gresham's statue, though fallen from its niche in the Royal Exchange, remained entire, when all those of the Kings since the Conquest were broken to pieces. Also the standard in Cornhill, and Queen Elizabeth's effigies, with some arms on Ludgate, continued with but little detriment, while the vast iron chains of the city streets, hinges, bars, and gates of prisons, were many of them melted and reduced to cinders by the vehement heat. Nor was I yet able to pass through any of the narrow streets, but kept the widest; the ground and air, smoke and fiery vapor, continued so intense, that my hair was almost singed, and my feet insufferably surbated. The by-lanes and narrow streets were quite filled up with rubbish; nor could one have possibly known where he was, but by the ruins of some Church, or Hall, that had some remarkable tower, or pinnacle remaining.
I then went towards Islington and Highgate, where one might have seen 200,000 people of all ranks and degrees dispersed, and lying along by their heaps of what they could save from the fire, deploring their loss; and, though ready to perish for hunger and destitution, yet not asking one penny for relief, which to me appeared a stranger sight than any I had yet beheld. His Majesty (36) and Council indeed took all imaginable care for their relief, by proclamation for the country to come in, and refresh them with provisions.
In the midst of all this calamity and confusion, there was, I know not how, an alarm begun that the French and Dutch, with whom we were now in hostility, were not only landed, but even entering the city. There was, in truth, some days before, great suspicion of those two nations joining; and now that they had been the occasion of firing the town. This report did so terrify, that on a sudden there was such an uproar and tumult that they ran from their goods, and, taking what weapons they could come at, they could not be stopped from falling on some of those nations whom they casually met, without sense or reason. The clamor and peril grew so excessive, that it made the whole Court amazed, and they did with infinite pains and great difficulty, reduce and appease the people, sending troops of soldiers and guards, to cause them to retire into the fields again, where they were watched all this night. I left them pretty quiet, and came home sufficiently weary and broken. Their spirits thus a little calmed, and the affright abated, they now began to repair into the suburbs about the city, where such as had friends, or opportunity, got shelter for the present to which his Majesty's (36) proclamation also invited them.
Still, the plague continuing in our parish, I could not, without danger, adventure to our church.
John Evelyn's Diary 10 September 1666
10 Sep 1666. I went again to the ruins; for it was now no longer a city.
John Evelyn's Diary 13 September 1666
13 Sep 1666. I presented his Majesty (36) with a survey of the ruins, and a plot for a new city, with a discourse on it; whereupon, after dinner, his Majesty (36) sent for me into the Queen's (27) bed-chamber, her Majesty (27) and the Duke (32) only being present. They examined each particular, and discoursed on them for near an hour, seeming to be extremely pleased with what I had so early thought on. The Queen (27) was now in her cavalier riding-habit, hat and feather, and horseman's coat, going to take the air.
John Evelyn's Diary 16 September 1666
16 Sep 1666. I went to Greenwich Church, where Mr. Plume (36) preached very well from this text: "Seeing, then, all these things shall be dissolved," etc.: taking occasion from the late unparalleled conflagration to remind us how we ought to walk more holy in all manner of conversation.
John Evelyn's Diary 27 September 1666
27 Sep 1666. Dined at Sir William D'Oyly's (52), with that worthy gentleman, Sir John Holland, of Suffolk.