Few people have heard of Thomas Farynor, but most are familiar with the events that occurred in the kitchen of his house in the early hours of September 2nd 1666. If you are still struggling, maybe I ought to reveal that Mr Farynor and his family lived in Pudding Lane, London, and it was in his bakery that the Great Fire of London started.
The Great Fire of 1666 was not the first conflagration in the capital, nor was London the only city to suffer the fate of destruction from burning. It didn't, as might be supposed, signal a change in the law to prevent the kind of conditions that led to the rapid spread of the fire. There was no need to change the law in favour of building houses from stone instead of wood, and roofing them with either tiles or slate, instead of thatch. Such laws already existed. What was needed was a change in attitude of those in authority.
No law can ever be effective if it is not enforced, and the attitude of those in charge of London in the 17th century can best be demonstrated by the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth. It is tempting to wonder why Mr Bloodworth had been knighted, since his ineptitude in the face of catastrophe was astounding. His knighthood clearly was not for decisiveness or quick thinking, because he looked at the fire, dismissed it as trivial and went back to bed.
No, Bloodworth's knighthood had little to do with his abilities as a leader of men, and everything to do with money. He rose to prominence as a result of a successful trading career, a fact which gives further indication as to the priorities of the day. He was not alone. Much of London's population was engaged in some kind of trading or manufacture. Houses were cramped together, with trade being carried out on the ground floor, and living quarters above. The streets were polluted with waste, and there was little regard for safety. Fires were commonplace, and deemed an inevitable hazard, to be dealt with on a community basis when they occurred.
The Great Fire was clearly the wake up call that the city required, and when London was rebuilt in the years after the fire, more attention was paid to ensuring that the long ignored building regulations were adhered to. Other places followed suit. Laws were properly enforced on a nationwide scale. Which is where Lingmoor fell in the Lake District comes in.
Lingmoor, along with the fells in it's vicinity, has extensive reserves of good quality slate, perfect for the manufacture of roofing tiles. The only problem for the early quarry owners was transporting the finished product to other parts of the country. For the first 100 years or so of their existence, the slate was shipped out over Wrynose and Hardknott Passes to the port of Whitehaven via pack horse, a slow and laborious method of distribution that resulted in production being barely able to keep up with demand. Then came the railway age, and with it a golden period in the slate roofing tile industry. Production soared, and as more and more quarries were opened up, so whole settlements grew in prosperity and importance. The villages of Chapel Stile, Elterwater and Little Langdale thrived.
|Abandoned quarry building on the side of Lingmoor Fell, with Crinkle Crags and Bowfell in the background.|
This video of the walk from Elterwater to Brown Howe, the summit of Lingmoor Fell, actually goes through the modern quarry. Filmed on an unusually hot day in September 2016, it shows how the modern landscape has been shaped by the quarrying industry, and how both tourism and quarrying live and thrive side by side in the 21st century.