Pepys - Fire of London

Pepys - Fire of London


It’s the early hours of 2 September 1666. Samuel Pepys and his wife Elizabeth are woken by a maid summoning them to see the fire that’s taken hold near London Bridge. Although Pepys is not duly concerned at this point — the city’s thatch and timber buildings often catch fire, after all — when he climbs to a high vantage point near the Tower, he soon realises that this is no ordinary blaze: it is raging every which way, with no one to quench it. He is watching the eruption of the Great Fire of London.

Thus begins the latest in Hattie Naylor’s long-running adaptation of the renowned naval administrator’s diaries and it is, for obvious reasons, the most vivid. Kris Marshall and Katherine Jakeways return as the spatting Pepyses — Lizzie is understandably peeved that Samuel is more concerned over the safety of his gold than his wife as they and their neighbours abandon their homes to seek refuge.

The descriptions of a great city turned to a chaotic inferno in a matter of days are terrifyingly evocative. Pepys writes of “an entire arch of flame” reaching across the sky and the “infinite fury” of the fire as it funnels down the narrow streets. But it is his caution on the danger of the masses seeking someone to blame after a disaster — in this case the French, the Dutch, the Papists, the Book of Revelations — that strikes such a telling, contemporary tone.


Hattie Naylor's long-running adaptation of the renowned naval administrator's diaries reaches one of the landmark events of the 17th century, the Great Fire of London. September 2, 1666, and Pudding Lane baker Thomas Farrinor heads to bed unaware that one of his ovens is still alight. The subsequent blaze spreads rapidly through the capital, and Pepys recounts the days following the incident, and its toll on the community. Starring Kris Marshall.