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The Great Fire of London and Fire Idioms

The Great Fire of London took place from Sunday 2nd September until Wednesday 5th September 1666. Many houses and other buildings in the centre of London were destroyed but even so, it is thought that not many people actually died.


Sign on Pudding Lane

How did the Great Fire of London start?

The fire started soon after midnight at a bakery in Pudding Lane and spread quickly across the City of London. It started as a very small fire but increased rapidly as at that time many buildings in Great Fire of LondonLondon were made from timber and the city had been suffering from a drought (a long period when there is little or no rain) since the previous November.

How did they put out the fire?

In 1666 there was no official fire brigade and not many people knew much about firefighting. They tried using water to put out the fire but this didn’t work. Eventually, the fire was stopped by the Navy – they used gunpowder to blow up houses in the path of the fire to stop it spreading to other houses.


Map showing the area of London affected by the Great Fire

What happened after the fire?

Much of London was destroyed in the fire including approximately 13,200 houses, 87 churches and other buildings and landmarks such as London Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. Christopher Wren rebuilt the city over the next 30 years using mainly stone instead of timber to prevent another fire.

A Monument to the Great Fire of London

Not long after the fire took place, a monument was built near Pudding Lane as a memorial to the Great Fire. It is known as “The Monument” and is a familiar London landmark which many people visit every year. You can walk up the 311 steps and see an amazing view of the city.


Bloomsbury International students visiting The Monument

5 Fire Idioms

Add fuel to the fire/flames

To make an argument or a bad situation worse than it already is.

“The staff are already upset so if you cut their wages you’ll just be adding fuel to the fire.”

Fight fire with fire

To use the same methods or “weapons” against your opponent as they are using against you.

“Our competitors have started to spend a lot of money on advertising so I think we should fight fire with fire and do the same.”

Play with fire

To do something dangerous or risky.

“I think you are playing with fire if you don’t stop your relationship with Jane. You know she’s already married!”

Get on like a house on firefire

To have a very good relationship with someone.

“I was worried that my mum and boyfriend wouldn’t like each other but they’re getting on like a house on fire!”

There’s no smoke without fire

If bad things are being said about someone or something, there is probably some truth behind it.

“He seems like a nice guy but there are so many bad rumours about him and you know there’s no smoke without fire.”

See more English idioms here including their meanings, origins and example sentences.

Have fun with English

Can you find the 10 English mistakes in this postcard? Look for spelling, grammar and vocabulary mistakes.

Hi Jodie! I’m having a wonderful time in London – your right, this is a really special city! My english classes are really good (I think my English is much better now!) and I’ve done a lot of seesighting. So far I’ve visit Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingham Palace and many other famous places. I know you said your favourit place is Oxford Street but I prefer the Camden Town. There are so much interesting things to see and do their – crazy shops and crazy peoples! Tomorrow we’re going to the British Museum – I can’t wait! See you soon, from Katie.

Last week’s answers

London Landmarks word scramble

1. Buckingham Palace
2. Hourseguards Parade
3. Leicester Square
4. Tower Bridge
5. Nelsons Column
6. Westminster Abbey

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