The timing of the Gregorie Dinner meant that many members of the Company were in Cambridge, rather than London, for the 350th anniversary of what we now call “The Great Fire of London”. There have been many events in and around the City over the last few months – lectures, walks and an excellent “Fire! Fire” exhibition at The Museum of London, as well as the fabulous burning of a model City on the river Thames on the night of 3 September. Not surprisingly, the Spectacle Makers’ Society could not let this milestone pass without an event and so 38 people gathered on a bright October morning for a Family Fire Walk, beginning, appropriately, at Bakers’ Hall.
Split into three groups, the walkers were encouraged to take on the personae of key characters in this story: one small boy was inordinately proud when he saw the buildings “he” had created as Christopher Wren; but a Past Master was less happy to find out that “she” had been one of the first victims of the fire, Thomas Farrinor’s maid.
There was a picture quiz along the way but still, walking around a Square Mile can be very tiring, so we needed a pit stop halfway round. And what better than to break out of history with a visit to the 21st Century equipment within the City of London’s only surviving Fire Station, on Lower Thames Street.
The fire crew took great pleasure in answering questions about their experience of working in the City. How quickly could they have put out a fire which started in Pudding Lane on a hot Sunday evening in early September and within 24 hours had overtaken most of the City? Well, now of course there are much better detection systems and sprinkers, so it might never have happened, but trying to get to that part of the City during a Monday morning rush hour would still present some challenges.
It was not just the children who wanted to sit in the cab and turn on the flashing blue lights. One Spectacle Maker confessed later that, much as she loves history, seeing a real live fireman and going behind the closed doors of the fire station were probably her lasting memory of the day!
The trip finished with an informal lunch and discounted entry to the exhibition at the Museum of London. "Fire! Fire!" continues at the Museum until April 2017 and is well worth a visit. You can also pop into the “War, Fire and Plague” gallery to see London Stone in all its glory (see the last edition of “From the Master and Wardens”).