The Great Fire of London

The city of old London had narrow, crooked streets and wooden houses. It was a dirty city, too. In 1665 seventy-five thousand Londoners died from the plague.

On 2 September 1666, a bakery in Pudding Lane near London Bridge caught fire. It was Thomas Farriner’s* shop; he was the baker for King Charles II and baked bread for the Royal Navy. The fire started because either the baker or one of his servants forgot to douse the fire in the oven. (* also spelt Farynor)


A man named Samuel Pepys lived on the other side of the River Thames and he saw the Londoners escape. He was a story writer and he wrote a diary about the fire. He was also afraid of the fire, so he buried some quality cheese and wine in his garden.


The wind coming from the river blew the flames from house to house. The fire spread very quickly. People tried to put out the fire with buckets of water from the hand pumps. The river was too far so it was very difficult to stop the quickly spreading fire. It burnt for four days and destroyed 80% of the city.


On the fourth day the wind stopped. The Duke of York, the king’s son ordered his men to destruct some houses which also helped to stop the fire.

On the fourth day the wind stopped. The Duke of York, the king’s son ordered his men to destruct some houses which also helped to stop the fire.

Only six people died in the fire, but it damaged lots of London’s houses and buildings – 13,200 houses and 87 churches. Citizens of London later rebuilt them, they used brick and stone. The new streets were straight and wide. Architect Christopher Wren rebuilt 49 churches including St Paul’s Cathedral. He also built The Monument: a 202-feet-high memorial to the Great Fire of London. The Monument is as tall as the distance between its base and the site of the baker’s shop where the fire began.


These bricks on the left can be seen in the Museum of London, which tells the story of the Great Fire in an interactive way. The bricks were found in a shop in Pudding Lane, not far from the former bakery. On the surface of the bricks pitch was found, which is like tar, a very flammable material. Those barrels of pitch which were kept in thge cellars of shops in Pudding Lane, quickly spread the fire to the warehouses along the River Thames. All the warehouses were filled with flammable materials like hemp, coal, timber, wine and oil. The fire was uncontrollable from then on and the high winds carried the flames into the City of London.

Try this game – stop the fire yourself.

Here are the irregular verbs from the story. Look at the past forms.





























Roman Britain 1

Julius Caesar wrote in around 55 BCE, “The Britons have a huge number of cattle, they use gold coins or iron bars as their money, and produce tin and iron.” So Caesar and his army invaded Britain because Rome wanted to get its hand on British resources to become richer.

The Romans came from the south and were led by Claudius. They arrived in 43 CE in Kent.

In the next year, they battled inland, got to London and founded Londinium.

What the Romans left in Britain:

  • their brick and stone buildings with central heating,
  • sewage systems,
  • paved, straight roads,
  • public baths,
  • villas,
  • temples,
  • walls around towns,
  • reading and writing (Latin words),
  • Christianity,
  • rabbits,
  • coins.

A Day in the Life of a 10-Year-Old in Roman times

THE CITY of London

The most famous places / sights / landmarks:

  • St Paul’s Cathedral;
  • the Bank of England (and Museum);
  • the Monument (of the Great Fire of London);
  • Millennium Bridge;
  • Shakespeare’s Globe;
  • The Guildhall;
  • Saint Bride’s Church.CityofLondon-map

The City of London was once “London only” – in Roman times it was Londinium surrounded by walls. You can still see the ruins of these walls.

In the Bank of England, the UK’s money is held in notes and bars of gold. In its museum, you can see the history of money making in England, touch a real gold bar and see all the types of weapons once were used to defend the bank.

The Guildhall (= the town hall) of London has been the central governing building of the City since 1440. Once set up by the guildsmen, it’s still the administrative and ceremonial centre of The City of London. Two legendary statues, Gog and Magog can be seen there. There are still City Guilds in London – they used to control all the businesses in the City, but nowadays they do charity work.

The “gates” of the City are guarded by red dragons, which are statues holding the coat-of-arms of the City. These dragons can be seen as decoration on some buildings, lamp-posts etc.

The Lord Mayor is only mayor to the City of London. The first was appointed by Richard I, called Henri Fitz-Ailwin de Londonstone. A Lord Mayor in London in chosen for one year. When he is appointed, a 260-year-old (built in 1757) beautiful golden stage coach carries him through the City.

A Lord Mayor in Scotland is called a Lord Provost – there are 69 of them in the UK (31in SCO). We call them “The Right Honourable”.

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What’s On at the Tower of London

ceremonyofthekeysThe Ceremony on the Keys

  • watch live how the Warders close the Tower (tradition for 700 years) – every day!;
  • visitors are escorted in and out the Tower (9.30 p.m.-10.30 p.m.; the ceremony starts at 10.05 p.m.);
  • you must book a ticket (free) online (only) – the event is fully booked for about a year long
  • you can’t take photos / videos; can’t go to the toilet or buy refreshments during the ceremony

The Crown Jewels

  • The Coronation Spoon (over 800 years old, used at coronations for holy oil)
  • The Sovereign’s Sceptre (with the Cullinan I diamond or Great Star of Africa, the largest colourless cut diamond of the world)
  • St Edward’s Crown (worn at the moment the monarch is crowned since 1661)
  • The Imperial State Crown (since 1937, worn at the State Opening of the Parliament

whitetowerThe White Tower

  • built to show power and
    strength and fear the intruders of London;
  • inside:
    • The Royal Armouries (e.g. of Henry VIII)
    • Chapel of St John the Evangelist, built in the 11th century
    • torture tools (axes, swords, blocks, etc. used in executions)


The ravens of the Tower

Ravens have been in the Tower since it was built. They are the kings of the Tower and the guardians, as the saying goes: “If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall.”

According to the legend, it was King Charles II who ordered to protect the Ravens. There are seven ravens to guard the Tower (six plus one – and there are more – spare).

towerravens03-ravenmasterIt is the Raven Master who looks after the Tower ravens, moreover, the ravens only respond to him. All of our ravens are bred in captivity, not taken from the wild. To prevent the ravens from flying away, their lifting feathers are trimmed by the Raven Master. This procedure does not hurt the birds in any way, but by unbalancing their flight, it ensures they stay safe and do not stray far from the Tower. Look carefully and you will see the ravens’ graveyard and marker in the south moat (visible from the Middle Drawbridge). This is a great indicator of the respect in which they are held at the Tower.

Despite their having one wing trimmed, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave and others have had to be sacked. Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub. 

The ravens at the Tower eat 170g of raw meat a day, plus bird biscuits soaked in blood. Generally, a raven that comes from the crow family (and is its largest member) lives for 12-15 years, but at the Tower, a raven lived even up to 44 years.


The Tower of London


Age: more than 900 years

Built by: William the Conqueror

Its roles in British history: a Royal palace; a prison; an arsenal; a Royal Zoo; a place of execution; a Royal mint.

The Tower of London was a prison over a lot of centuries. The prisoners were brought via the River Thames from Westminster. Their trials were held at Westminster and crowds of people waited on the riverbank to find out the verdict.
The executioner had a long sharp axe. He stood behind the accused on the boat. If the accused was guilty, the executioner pointed his axe towards the victim. If not guilty, he pointed it away. People knew that if found guilty there was a public execution 48 hours later.

Famous prisoners of the Tower were: Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard (2nd and 5th wife of Henry VIII); Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley; Queen Elizabeth I; Guy Fawkes; Samuel Pepys…
Many people have been locked in the Tower, for religious beliefs or suspected treason. Many Tudor’s prisoners entered the Tower of London through the Traitors‘ Gate.

People and goods arrived and left the Tower via the River Thames, through a door in the walls called the Sallyport.


The responsibility for looking after the prisoners was given to the Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters. The Yeomen Warders originate from twelve Yeoman of the Guards, who were once private bodyguards of Henry VIII. There are about 40 of them nowadays.

Today, in principle, they have to look after any prisoners at the Tower and safeguard the British crown jewels. But in practice (as there are no prisoners nowadays in the Tower) they act as tour guides. There are twelve Yeomen Warders working at a time.

The Yeomen Warders take part in one State ceremony. At Coronations, they form a guard of honour inside the annexe at Westminster Abbey.

Their nickname is Beefeater. It comes from the time when the Yeomen Warders at the Tower got part of their salary with chunks of beef up until the 1800s.


The Queen’s Body Guard – the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch. There are 73 Yeomen of the Guard, they are all former officers and sergeants of the British Services.

It is the oldest of the Royal bodyguards and the oldest military corps in Britain. The Yeomen of the Guard accompany the current monarch at investitures (e.g. a new bishop, archbishop etc.) and summer Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace, and so on. Their most famous duty is to ‘ceremonially’ search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster prior to the State Opening of Parliament, a tradition that dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament.

Yeomen Warders wear two types of uniform – the State Dress Uniform on state occasions, and the normal everyday uniform. The latter is a blue dress with some red and the initials ER in the centre. ER stand for Elizabetha Regina – Regina means Queen in Latin, so the initials refer to Queen Elizabeth II, the current British monarch.

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Bet You Didn’t Know…

All about the Tudors


Under the Tudors, London grew a lot bigger and wealthier. It was the Renaissance Era: times of happiness and joy, when even poor people could enjoy theatre plays, music and games. By 1600, London’s population was 200,000.

Rich men had built houses along the Strand joining London to Westminster. Along the walls of Tudor London were several gates (e.g. Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate and Ludgate). Two of the gates were used as prisons, Ludgate and Newgate. Furthermore, the body parts of traitors who were hung drawn and quartered were displayed over the gates as a warning.

Over the River Thames was London Bridge, which had buildings along its length. (Many of them had shops on the ground floor). South of the Thames was the large suburb of Southwark. The River Thames was a major transport route as Tudor London was the largest port in England. Sailing ships sailed to quays just before London Bridge and there were also smaller boats owned by watermen for transporting people along the Thames. There were also many fishermen in London and The Thames teemed with fish like salmon, trout, perch, flounder and bream. However The Thames sometimes froze over fairs were held on it.

At night the streets of London were dark and dangerous. At 9 pm in summer and at dusk in winter church bells rang the curfew and the city gates were locked.


The Tudors built a lot of galleons (huge ships with sails used for fighting and carrying goods). Tudor ships explored several new parts of the world (America, India etc.) Several new food was brought to England from the Americas like turkey or potato.


pillory.JPGIn Tudor Times people weren’t often put in prison. After their trial, a physical punishment was usually given which were often harsh; e.g. flogging; the pillory or the stocks. (The pillory was a wooden frame on a pole with holes through which a person’s head and hands were placed. The frame was then locked. The stocks was a wooden frame with holes through which a person’s feet.)

More serious crimes were punished by death. Beheading was reserved for the rich, ordinary people were usually hanged.


  • most of the population lived in villages and made their living from farming;
  • towns and cities were growing because of industry (mining of coal, tin and lead)
  • the Royalty
  • the Nobility (they owned the land)
  • the Gentry and rich merchants (they had a family coat-of-arms, land; never did manual work)
  • the Middle class – yeomen and craftsmen (owned their own land but worked on the land, too; able to read and write)
  • the Poor: farmers, wage labourers (often illiterate and very poor)


Boys usually went to a ‘petty school’ (like nursery) first then moved onto grammar school when they were about seven. The school day began at 6 am in summer and 7 am in winter (people went to bed early and got up early in those days). Lunch was from 11 am to 1 pm. School finished at about 5 pm. Boys went to school 6 days a week and there were few holidays.

Many Tudor children learned to read and write. Discipline in Tudor schools was harsh. The teacher often had a stick with twigs attached to it for hitting boys. When they were about 15 or 16 the brightest boys might go to one of England’s two universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Of course many boys did not go to school at all. If they were lucky they might get a 7-year apprenticeship and learn a trade.
As for girls, in a rich family a tutor usually taught them at home. In a middle class family their mother might teach them. Upper class and middle class women were educated. However lower class girls were not. Tudor children who did not go to school were expected to work.


For the rich: jousting; hunting and falconry; billiards; chess and backgammon; cards; the theatre; music and dancing; reading; children played with dolls

For the poor: playing dice instead of cards; Nine men‘s morris; shove ha’penny; the theatre; dancing; rough / mob football (no rules); children played cup and ball.

Names, terms, dates: By the river Thames

Read and listen to Chapter 5 from the London book.

CHAPTER 5 – By the river

River Thames, the the longest river in England and the second longest in the UK; it rises in Cotswold Hills in Gloucestershire and flows into the North Sea; it is 346 km long; it has been an important route for trade and transport since Prehistoric times
Globe Theatre, the the first one was built at the time of Queen Elizabeth I to show Shakespeare’s plays; the newest opened in 1997 to show the Elizabethan theatre at an interactive lesson and exhibition
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) the greatest English poet and playwright; he was born in Stratford-upon—von; from 1585-1592 he worked as an actor and playwright in London and he owned a company called the King’s Men; he wrote tragedies and comedies, the most famous works: Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer night’s Dream; Hamlet
Tate Modern, the an art gallery to show the 20th and 21st century art in its 88 exhibition rooms
Millennium (Foot)Bridge, the it is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians only over the River Thames that connects the Globe with St Paul’s, designed for the Millennium, opened in 2000 and reopened after reconstruction in 2002
London Eye, the a giant Ferris wheel of 135 m high by Westminster Bridge; it can carry 800 passengers in a thirty-minute ride
Canary Wharf it is a complex of office buildings by the River Thames towards Greenwich
Docklands, the a dockland is a port / harbour area where cargo ships (vessels) can stay and leave their goods; in London it was once the biggest port area; today it is re-developed and offices and apartment buildings are built here
Thames Barrier, the a flood defence mechanism and machinery to prevent London from tidal floods opened in 1984;

The Guilds and medieval jobs

London in the Middle Ages was a lot smaller than the city is today. The houses were made of wood and they were built very close to each other. Streets were covered in mud, or at some places stones called cobbles. Shops in the street had signs on them to show what they sold, because people couldn’t read.


Merchants and craftsmen joined to form powerful groups called Guilds to keep the good quality of their products.
– A boy of the age 11-12 could go to a guild where a guildsman began his education which lasted for 2 years. The boy was called an apprentice.

– Then the boy became a journeyman and went to other towns to learn from other guildsmen. He also received wages (earned money).

– Then he made his masterpiece (at the age of 16) and if he could save enough money, he could start his own business.

In towns, only its guilds could sell things. The streets were usually named after the craftsmen who owned a shop in that street (e.g.: Baker Street, Bread Street etc.).

Each guild had its own symbol called a coat-of-arms to show its product.

Look at the signs and the jobs. Then match the jobs with the job descriptions.




jester an old word for someone whose job was to manage an inn, a house with a pub downstairs and a hotel upstairs
innkeeper someone whose job is to blow liquid glass into shapes in order to make containers and other objects
artist someone in the past whose job was to entertain an important person by saying and doing funny things
herbalist someone who delivers messages to people, often as their job
glassblower someone whose job is to make bread, cakes etc.
hunter someone who grows, sells, or prepares herbs for use in medicine or who treats ill people with herbal medicines
baker a professional performer in music, dance, or the theatre
messenger someone who chases and kills wild animals