Pudding Lane is most famously known as the starting point of the Great Fire of 1666. The origin of its name is contested by historians but is most likely consistent with Stow’s explanation in his Survey of London:
Then haue yee one other lane called Rother Lane, or Red Rose Lane, of such a signe there, now commonly called Pudding Lane, because the Butchers of Eastcheape haue their skalding House for Hogges there, and their puddinges [entrails] with other filth of Beastes, are voided downe that way to theyr dung boates on the Thames(1.210–11). Henry A. Harben, Gillian Bebbington, and Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert support Stow’s account of the origin. However, Edward Waterhouse (1619–1670) gives a different explanation in his Narrative, understanding pudding as a favourite national dish rather than the medieval word for
guts and entrails(Weinreb and Hibbert 625). Edward Waterhouse introduces Pudding Lane as
a place so called, but for some eminent seller or sellers of Puddings living of old there,it being a regular practice to name streets after that which was produced or sold in the vicinity (as in Bread Street, Milk Street, and Candlewick Street). He dubs pudding
the general beloved diſh of Engliſh men(Waterhouse sig. C8r-C8v).
Pudding Lane ran south from Little Eastcheap down to Thames Street, with New Fish Street (Newfyshe Streat) framing it on the west and Botolph Lane on the east. The only intersecting street on Pudding Lane is St. George’s Lane, and the nearby parishes include St. Margaret’s, St. Magnus’s, St. Botolph’s, St. George’s, and St. Leonard, Eastcheap. On Ekwall’s map it is labeled as
Rother (Pudding) Laneafter Stow’s account of the lane’s former title. Pudding Lane is contained within Billingsgate Ward.
Eastcheap (the eastern counterpart to Westcheap or Cheapside, ceap meaning originally to barter and eventually becoming the noun for market) was the primary meat market in London. Pudding Lane was lined with butchers’ stalls (Bebbington 120). Bebbington notes that in 1402 the butchers were granted an alley where they might dispose of entrails known as puddings. Pudding Lane ran conveniently towards the river from Eastcheap. Harben reports that butchers were licenced
to build a bridge over the Thames with houses thereon, whence they might cast offal into the Thames at ebb-tide(Harben).
In Stow’s time the lane was
chiefly inhabited by Basketmakers, Turners and Butchers(Stow 1.211). Waterhouse, writing later in the seventeenth century, remarks that
people of labour and poor condition plyin this
pittyful lane,working early in the morning and late at night
when the Tyde serves to bring up Fishermen, Passengers, and other Boats and Portages.They would then sell their puddings, hoping to
bring the place in requestwith travelers (sig. C8v). Al Smith remarks that the butchers have since relocated to Smithfield and Leadenhall markets (164–65), a progression that likely began in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
The Great Fire began on Sunday, 2 September 1666 at around 2 a.m. in the house of Thomas Farriner (also Farryner), the King’s baker,
at a site which is now occupied by 25 Pudding Lane(Smith 164–65). Due to a strong eastern wind, the flames spread quickly throughout the city and raged until Thursday 6 September, a full four days later, having consumed 89 churches, 13,200 houses and 400 streets (145–46). The fire proceeded south from Pudding Lane towards the bridge, where it crossed Thames Street, ignited St. Magnus’s Church, destroyed London Bridge, and then blew north again, heading westward down Thames Street (Vincent sig. E3v-E4r). Major buildings destroyed included St. Paul’s Cathedral, 52 of the livery company halls, the Guildhall, the Custom House, the Royal Exchange, Newgate prison, Bridewell, and the compters at Wood Street and Poultry (Porter).
There have been many speculations about who started the fire and how it began but none has been sufficiently proven. Robert Hubert, an alleged arsonist, was one of many accused of the crime. He confessed to launching fireballs at Farriner’s house but his story was unconvincing and he was thought to be deranged. Nevertheless, he was hanged at Tyburn on 27 October (Porter). For many years, the Great Fire was considered a Catholic act of rebellion, potentially connected to the Gunpowder Plot of 5 November 1605. Thomas Vincent (1634–78) gives the following account, seeing the disaster as an opportunity to spread hatred of the Catholic religion to younger generations of Londoners:
this doth smell of a Popish design so hatcht in the same place where the Gunpowder plot was contriv’d, only that this was more successful. The world sufficiently knows how correspondent this is to Popish principles and practises; those, who could intentionally blow up King and Parliament by Gunpowder, might (without any scruple of their kinds of conscience) actually burn an heretical City (as they count it) into ashes: for besides the Dispensations they can have from his Holiness, or rather his Wickedness the Pope, for the most horrid crimes of Murder, Incest, and the like; It is not unlikely but they count such an action as this meritorious (in their kind of merit) [. . .] I believe that the people will now take more heed of them and their waies; and instead of promoting their cause, I hope that a contrary effect is produced; and that the before Indifferency of a generation more newly sprung up, who did not know them, is now turned into loathing and detestation of such a religion, as can allow of such practices.
Waterhouse cites one of the major causes of the fire’s spread: the sheer volume of combustible materials surrounding the site, including
a Bakers stack of wood in the house, and [in] all the neighbouring houses,an Inn on New Fish Street Hill
full of Hay and other combustibles,and finally a lodge on Thames Street filled with
Oyl, Hemp, Flax, Pitch, Tar, Cordage, Hops, Wines, Brandies, and other materials favourable to Fire(sig. C8v-D1r). Farriner maintained that it was not negligence on his part that began the fire (Porter), and a committee set up to discover the cause concluded it was a combination of a very dry season, a great easterly gale, and an Act of God (Smith 145–46). Other contributing factors were
failure to isolate the fire by demolishing the surrounding houses,the
densely packed district,and fewer early morning witnesses than there would have been on a weekday (Porter).
Pudding Lane has been mentioned in some monumental literary works. Andrew Marvell’s poem
Nosterdamus’s Prophecy(1689) makes reference to Pudding Lane, citing Hubert’s alleged claims of attacking Farriner’s house with fireballs:
(sig. B3r)FOR Faults and Follies London’s Doom ſhall fix,And She muſt ſink in Flames in Sixty ſix;Fire-Balls ſhall fly, but few ſhall ſee the Train,As far as from White-hall to Pudding-Lane,To burn the City, which again ſhall riſe,Beyond all hopes, aſpiring to the Skies.
The lane appeared in dramatic works as well. For instance, the character Touch of Nahum Tate’s farce Cuckold’s-Haven (1685), performed at the Queen’s Theatre in Dorset, mentions a
blind Tap-housein Pudding Lane (sig. E4v). The following exchange in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments (1583) tells us something about the types of trades and attitudes associated with Pudding Lane prior to the Great Fire of 1666:
(sig. 4C5v)Haukes: Be you not a Hosier, and dwell in pudding lane?M Hug: Yes that I am, and there I do dwell.Haukes: It would seeme so, for ye can better skill to eate a pudding and make a hose then in Scripture eyther to answere or oppose.
Finally, John Griggs (1551/2–1598), a carpenter who built The Rose theatre for Philip Henslowe in 1587, lived in Pudding Lane in the parish of St. Margaret, New Fish Street—the same parish as Thomas Farriner, and probably mere steps away from the very site where the baker lived in 1649, and where the fire began only 51 years after Grigg’s death.
See also: Chalfant 144.
- Bebbington, Gillian. London Street Names. London: B.T. Batsford, 1972.
- Chalfant, Fran C. Ben Jonson’s London: A Jacobean Placename Dictionary. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1978.
- Foxe, John. Actes and monuments. London, 1583. EEBO. Reprint. Subscription. STC 11225.
- Harben, Henry. A Dictionary of London. London: Henry Jenkins, 1918. British History Online. Reprint. Open.
Nosterdamus’s Prophecy.A Collection of Poems on Affairs of State. London, 1689. Wing C5176. Reprint. EEBO.
Farriner, Thomas (1615/16?–70).Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Web.
- Smith, Al. Dictionary of City of London Street Names. New York: Arco, 1970.
- Stow, John. A Survey of London. Reprinted from the Text of 1603. Ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. [Also available as a reprint from Elibron Classics (2001). Articles written before 2011 cite from the print edition by volume and page number.]
- Tate, Nahum. Cuckold’s-Haven. London, 1685. Wing T180. Reprint. EEBO. Web.
- Vincent, Thomas. God’s Terrible Voice in the City. London, 1667. WingV440. Reprint. Early English Books Online. Web.
- Waterhouse, Edward. A Short Narrative of the Late Dreadful Fire in London. London, 1667. Wing W1050. Reprint. EEBO. Web.
- Weinreb, Ben, and Christopher Hibbert, eds. The London Encyclopaedia. New York: St. Martin’s, 1983. [You may also wish to consult the 3rd edition, published in 2008.]
Last modification: 2016-05-27 14:37:29 -0700 (Fri, 27 May 2016) (tlandels)