It Was Not the First Great Fire of London
Whilst undoubtedly the best known and most damaging fire in London’s long history, the Great Fire of 1666 was by no means the first.
The city of London’s history is peppered with tales of notable fires through the ages. Boudica and the Iceni are known to have razed the city to the ground in as far back as the year A.D. 60. Notable fires also occurred in the years 675, 989, 1087, 1135 (which famously destroyed London Bridge), and the 1212 Great Fire of Southwark, which was said by John Stow in his 1603 account to have killed as many as 3000 people, although this figure is now sometimes disputed by historians.
Samuel Pepys Buried Cheese in His Garden before Fleeing from the Path of the Fire
We all owe a huge debt of thanks to Samuel Pepys and his fastidious diary-keeping. He kept a detailed daily account of his life throughout the 1660s. His personal diaries were first published in 1825 and have become one of the most important eyewitness accounts and primary sources for both The Great Plague and The Great Fire of London.
Living in the path of the fire’s spread, Pepys, along with hundreds of others, began arranging the removal of his most valuable possessions by cart and river barge to ensure their safety. One of his most cherished possessions was a wheel of Italian Parmesan cheese, much prized amongst the noble classes at the time and highly expensive. His diary entry for Tuesday, September 4, 1666, records how he dug a pit in his garden in which he buried his wine along with his cheese for safekeeping. The subsequent fate of the cheese is not known.