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Wooden replica of 17th-century London set alight

05th September 2016

To mark the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London, a 120-metre long replica of 17th-century London was set alight on the River Thames on Sunday (Sept 4th).

The wooden work of art was created and torched by American “burn artist” David Best and attracted the attention of many spectators who looked on as the flames tore into the structure.

On September 2nd 1666, the Great Fire of London started in a bakery on Pudding Lane and burnt through the heart of London for four days, eradicating 80 per cent of the mostly wooden buildings in the walled inner city.

Following the catastrophe, it is believed that 70,000 of the 80,000 residents living in London were left homeless.

Once the fire was finally put out, 13,200 houses, 87 churches and St Paul’s Cathedral had been destroyed.

The replica fire was live streamed online and is part of a wider series of events that mark the anniversary of the Great Fire. The events celebrate London’s ability to rebuild from scratch and continue to thrive.

Although the old street layout of the capital was retained to respect property rights, the city that stands today was resurrected from the ashes of the wooden 17th-century London.

The burning masterpiece saw its flames projected on to St Paul’s Cathedral, a monument that was completed 44 years after the Great Fire and one that plays tribute to London’s resilience.

Nick Bodger, head of cultural and visitor development for the City of London, commented: “Three hundred and fifty years ago, when embers from a baker’s oven sparked one of the most catastrophic events the capital has ever witnessed, London’s economic prowess almost came to a fiery end.

“A renewed sense of purpose saw the great city we enjoy today rise from those ashes, develop and thrive.”

Titled ‘London 1666’ the wooden model is at the centre of the Great Fire 350 commemorations, a programme designed to reimagine the Great Fire of London through visions of contemporary artists, writers and thinkers.

In addition to the burning, a number of talks, tours, special sermons and debates are taking place in St Paul’s Cathedral until April 2017.

Other events include The Great City Photography Project at All Hallows by the Tower - a photography exhibition and art installation, a display at the Royal College of Physicians which tells the story of rebuilding of the college following the Great Fire, and exhibition by Claes Jansz Visscher at Guildhall Art Gallery.

Artist David Best is mostly known for his brilliant structures ritually set alight as part of Nevada’s annual Burning Man Festival. More recently, he created a temple in Northern Ireland to honor those who had died in the Troubles in the late 20th-century.

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