Lock, Shop, and Twenty Smoking Barrels

Ian Blair

 It was good to see that the series: ‘The Great Fire: In Real Time’ which aired over three consecutive nights (31st May - 2nd June 2017)  on Channel 5, borrowed on the archaeological evidence of the Great Fire, which has been recorded by countless archaeologists, on an ever growing number of sites over the past seventy years.

The two archaeological sites closest to the seat of the fire, which started in Thomas Farriner's bakery on Pudding Lane, were at Peninsular House (PEN79) and the neighbouring Monument House (BPL95), which both contained well preserved cellars of buildings destroyed in the conflagration.

Peninsular House excavation overall photo PEN79

Aerial view looking north–west across Peninsular House (PEN79) towards Pudding Lane and the Monument


Monument House excavation aerial viewAerial view looking west across Monument House (BPL95), with Building 7 rooms A and B (foreground), Building 6 and well (S7) (upper left) and courtyard (OA7) (upper centre) at. The Roman culvert and its access drop shaft have yet to be discovered


Monument House Excavation Plan

Plan of building complex Building 6 and Building 7 at Monument House (BPL95), destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 


Monument House Excavation staircaseThe remains of the staircase walls and limestone floor slabs in Building 7 room b at Monument House (BPL95), looking south-west. The wooden stairs were destroyed in the Great Fire


Peninsular House Excavation (PEN79) showing burnt barrels
The burnt remains of the wooden barrels on the floor of the Peninsular House (PEN79) cellar


Found on the floor of the Peninsular House cellar, were the burnt remains of about twenty wooden barrels, which are thought to have contained wood tar probably used for waterproofing ships’ hulls. Whilst no similarly highly combustible material was found in the Monument House cellars, their destruction backfill produced an incredible array of ironwork, which notably included 4 mounted locks, at least 16 padlocks, and 13 keys (clearly someone was either very security conscious or a budding escapologist).

Other finds included a rapier, a goffering iron, used for making rounded folds on ruffs or collars, and wait for it, a pair of waffle tongs, for making decorative wafers. An illustration, if one was needed, that throughout history London has always embraced different cultures and foods from across the globe.


Monument House Excavation padlocksPadlock cases and keys found in the destruction backfill of the Monument House (BPL95) cellar


Monument House Excavation waffle tongs

Waffle tongs from the Monument House (BPL95) cellar



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