The Great Fire of London started in a baker’s chimney in Pudding Lane on 2 September 1666. The ‘most horrid, malicious and bloody flame’, in the words of Samuel Pepys, eventually destroyed some 13,200 houses, 87 churches, the halls of 44 city companies, and major buildings such as the Royal Exchange and the Guildhall.

The Czech artist and engraver Wenceslaus Hollar, Royal Scenographer to Charles II, had more than a mere professional interest in the Great Fire. He had spent seven years work and had run into debt whilst preparing an enormous plan-view of the city ten feet by five feet, when the disaster rendered his surveys and drawings obsolete. His engraving of the survey by John Leake and others was a response to the widespread public interest aroused in Europe. The map shows the maximum extent of the devastation, with the sites of major public buildings, including the old St. Pauls Cathedral, clearly marked. The halls of the city companies are denoted by their coats of arms.