Commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London
by Alan Barker
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To tell the story of the Great Fire of London and to provide information about fire safety.
Preparation and materials
- Obtain a copyright-free image of the Great Fire to project as a background image and also an image of the monument marking the spot where the fire began. Resources can be found at:
- Optional: A group of children or another member of staff could be invited to present the Breaking News . . . found in section 3. The presentation could be accompanied by appropriate artwork.
1. Display the image of the Great Fire of London. Explain that 350 years ago a terrible fire destroyed much of the city. It began on 2 September 1666 at a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane.
2. Explain that a man called Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peeps) watched the fire and described what happened in his diary. So it’s possible to imagine how the disaster would have been reported had television news existed in those days!
3. Introduce the following presentation of Breaking News . . .
Sunday 2 September
Last night a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane caught fire. The blaze broke out shortly after midnight and has spread to nearby houses. All but one of the people asleep in the building escaped safely.
Efforts are still being made to put out the fire with pumps and buckets of water.
Monday 3 September
The fire that started in Pudding Lane on Sunday has spread across a large part of London. The flames are leaping from one house to another and across the narrow streets and alleys. A strong wind is blowing sparks and thick black smoke high into the sky. It’s hard to imagine how this fire can be stopped.
Tuesday 4 September
The great fire that has swept across London is still spreading. Hundreds of people are escaping from the smoke and flames with whatever belongings they can carry. Down at the River Thames some are loading their possessions on to boats to reach safety. Many others have fled through the city gates and are living in the open fields.
The Royal Navy is now using gunpowder to blow up houses in front of the flames. It’s hoped that this will make a gap and stop the fire spreading further.
Wednesday 5 September
After three days, the wind has dropped, and the great fire in London is under control. Over 13,000 homesand almost 90 churches have been destroyed Amazingly, very few people have died. It is hoped that the fire will be put out before morning. Many people are homeless and much of London will have to be rebuilt.
4. Explain that the rebuilding of London took many years and that safer buildings were designed. A tall monument was built in 1677 just a short distance from where the fire started. It is still possible for visitors to climb the 311 steps to the top.
5. Reflect that the story of the Great Fire of London reminds us of the danger of fire. Remind everyone:
- Never to play with matches, lighters or candles.
- Never to put anything other than cooking equipment on top of an oven or hob.
- Never to play or leave things close to a fire or heater.
6. Remind the children that it is important for everyone to know what to do if there was a fire.
Rehearse the school fire drill, adapting the following points to those specific for the school:
- If anyone sees smoke or flames they should tell someone straight away.
- If the fire alarm sounds they should leave the building calmly and quickly.
- The children should gather with a grown up at one of the assembly points.
- Everyone should stay calm and safe.
Explain how in an emergency anyone can get help from the Fire and Rescue Service by finding a phone and dialing 999.
7. Conclude by encouraging the children to remember these fire safety instructions as they enjoy learning about the past.
Time for reflection
Let’s be thankful for the enjoyment of hearing about the past and for the lessons that we can learn.
Let’s also remember to be grateful for the work of fire-fighters today.
to learn from the past,
to remember wise advice
and to always keep one another safe.
'London’s Burning' (traditional), sung as a round
Or you may like to use the tune for ‘London’s Burning’ to sing the following song, based upon Psalm 118:24:
It’s a new day, it’s a new day
We’re together, we’re together
And be thankful, and be thankful!
Words © Alan M Barker