We have recently been reminded that this is the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Great Fire of London of 1666. It was obviously a major event at the time, affecting many people’s lives. Some of the effects can be observed today, such as the many buildings dating from the time just after the Fire. St Paul’s Cathedral is the most obvious example.
My novel, Highwaypersons, is set in the years 1713 to 1716. Well after the Fire. The changes in London in the intervening half-century had been significant. Most people would say the new buildings were an improvement on the old, although one of my characters dares to disagree.
It was also a time of growing prosperity. Historians argue as to whether the Fire and the rebuilding had any influence on that, but it is certainly true that there was a lot of economic growth in those years. It will not surprise many of you to learn that the benefits were unevenly distributed, to say the least.
During this time, London became more important than ever as the centre of everything, in the whole of Britain, its influence even reaching as far as Wales. Architecture, fashions, painting, manners: all seemed to spread from the capital to the rest of the country, if only gradually and partially.
You may notice some of these things get mentioned in passing, but Highwaypersons is not primarily about economic and social history. I have the not let the background get in the way of the story. Well, I hope not. But the background cannot be totally ignored.
The Great Fire of London made an impression that was to last. Even in Wales.