London Great Fire and Town Planning 1666

In the seventeenth century, London was already a big and important trading city. Approximately, there are 400,000 inhabitants in London, including Westminster, Southwark, and other new quarters outside the wall. As a description, in those periods, London was already a wealthy and heterogeneous city.
The fire broke in the evening of September 1st and ceased in September 6th, before it broke again and really stops after a few months.

The Great Fire of London
The fire continues sweeping across the streets, devouring all it’s path, and by morning, about 300 houses and the north end of London Bridge were alight.
The first priority was to restore the business. The court of Common Council and the Court of Alderman secured quarters at Gresham College, a custom House was set up in Mark Lane. In addition, the commission also states regulations that to prevent architectural bedlam and ensure safety, building regulations and safety standards were stipulated. Brick and stone were required and in high street and principal streets, structured had to be four stories. Another major improvement was a Sewage and Paving Act (1671), which introduced the cambering of roads into a side drain, flanked by a raised pavement.

The London Master Plan
Dr. Christopher Wren is a scientist that later learnt architecture. Before the fire, Wren had already worked at His Majesty’s Work as a Deputy Surveyor, but had not worked in a significant and prominent design. There for, he sees the master plan of London as the time of his life to realized architectural ideas that he had during his visit the continent . The plan was still an abstract product of a great intellect. It started from a certain postulates to solving geometrical problems.
Below is the London master plan, as suggested by Wren

Why it was not executed?
However, those plan with other two architect’s plan never been executed, following the King’s proclamation, just after three days he received Wren’s plan. Although King Charles I found the plan educated and interesting, he learned that no one, even him the King, could command the people. In his proclamation, the King states that the plan will violate the scared rights of possession.
As it is obvious, Wren plan could not be implemented because of:
• Wren plan was to evacuated people from their land, which will be very for the government to manage about 400,000 inhabitants
• The plan, which required valuation of land ownership, could not be done because valuation has not been in practice and there were not enough sums to fund the project. In Wren’s plan, the streets had same width (while in modern days, different width street for different building heights)
• British land also recognized individual land that has been productive, will be not to be claimed by the town. It is there for, the Wren plan, that remove the people from their land and unite them in a public land, could not be implemented.

Instead, King Charles I founded a commission that will work to make regulations for housing, such as that house should be built of stone or brick and there will be survey activities on individual sites to established land that belongs to person rights. The commission also made an aesthetic regulation on the height of building in a certain type of streets. Low buildings will be located on a narrow street and high storey building in the width streets. This is useful to prevent large cost of street construction.

The King proclamation was the first modern type of urban design that follows social needs and zoning regulations that plan the city uniquely based on each city’s zone condition. There were no master plan but the development and revitalization is screen by case to case town planning, such as sewerage regulation, and proved that London has prevents the town planning absolutism-that were occur in capital cities elsewhere.

Ramussen, S.E., (1982) London the Unique City, 2nd edition, Massachusetts, MIT Press

Porter, R. (1996) London a social History, 3rd edition, London, Penguin Group


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