Named: The First Person To Witness The Great Fire Of London

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 01 September 2023

Named: The First Person To Witness The Great Fire Of London

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The Great Fire as seen from a boat in vicinity of Tower Wharf. © Museum of London

New research has revealed the identity of the first person to discover the Great Fire of London, when the blaze started in 1666.

Thomas Dagger, a 'journeyman' (skilled worker employed by someone else) baker, was working in Thomas Farriner's bakery on Pudding Lane when he discovered the fire on 2 September 1666, and raised the alarm.

The bakery itself has always been identified as the starting point of the Great Fire, and Farriner's home and workplace was the first of more than 13,000 to be destroyed by the blaze. Until now, however, it was not clear who was in the building at the time. Contemporary accounts varied, and Thomas Farriner's employee went unnamed in records.

The Great Fire of London 1666 © Museum of London

Professor Kate Loveman of the University of Leicester used information from letters, pamphlets, legal and guild records to piece together the early moments of the historic event for the Museum of London. She discovered that the surviving members of the Farriner household were Farriner himself, his adult children Hanna and Thomas, and Thomas Dagger, identified by name for the first time. It was already known that Farriner's maid (also unnamed), sadly died in the fire.

Loveman, Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Leicester, said:

It was fascinating to find out more about what happened on that famous night. Although most of the evidence about the Farriners is well known to historians, Thomas Dagger’s role has gone unrecognised.

The Museum of London has released this new research to coincide with the anniversary of the fire starting, on 2 September. The new information will be on display in the new Museum of London when it opens in 2026, where the museum’s Great Fire display will be reimagined, focusing on the stories of real Londoners in a newly-designed, interactive space.