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London Reborn

As the capital marks the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London, we look back at how The City and its people recovered to become the global business centre it is today.

 

An oven at the King’s bakery on Pudding Lane, London, was not turned off properly in the early hours of Sunday 2nd September, 1666. This small mistake caused one of the most famous blazes in history and the loss of homes for tens of thousands of people.

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The Great Fire of London

From this tragedy, the UK opened the path to the creation of the insurance industry and the protection of properties, and their contents.

Watch our stunning video below to see the changes our great capital has undergone after that fateful night 350 years ago and witness the rebuild to The City you recognise today.

 

A new form of protection begins

Within hours of beginning at Thomas Farriner’s bakery, the Great Fire had spread quickly through the streets. By the end of the first day, hundreds had lost their homes and the King had declared those properties in the way of the fire should be pulled down immediately to stop its spread. But by then it was already too late. The fire raged on for another four days, destroying 13,200 homes and leaving over 70,000 people – more than 80% of the population – financially ruined and homeless.

None of the lost buildings were covered by insurance, simply because it did not exist. This was soon to change, in the years following the fire, as the city began to regenerate, many people began to wonder what they could do to protect themselves in the future. As a result, noted economist, Dr. Nicholas Barbon, and his associates, created The Insurance Office for Houses, near The Royal Exchange in 1680. This allowed Londoners to protect their homes against future fires by spreading the potential losses amongst those who bought into the scheme his company offered. In this way, he created the beginnings of the modern insurance industry out of the devastation of the fire.

The origin of home insurance

The original home insurance policy simply meant if your house was on fire, a team of fire fighters would arrive to try to put of the blaze. As the years progressed rival companies set up, giving the public the chance to choose between cover. Those who took out policies were given a ‘fire mark’ to display over the doorframe of their home. These marks were signposts for early firefighting crews to put out flames in the event of a fire. But only by your insurance company’s fire fighters; if you didn’t have the mark, your house was left.

fire mark
fire engine

The rise of home insurance

By 1833, ten insurance companies united their firefighting teams, forming the London Fire Brigade, which would respond to all fires, not just those covered by an insurance policy. Meanwhile, the home insurance industry had evolved to both protect and repair homes from all types of disaster, as well as the value of the contents within.

It pays to be prepared

No one wants to think about the prospect of a fire and the damage it can do to your home and possessions. But it pays to be prepared. So we’ve put together some tips to make sure you know what you’re doing in the event of a fire, or other incidents that could affect your home. Have a look at our Safety Hub now.  

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