Rebuilding of London Act 1666
The Rebuilding of London Act 1666 is an Act of the Parliament of England (19 Car. II. c. 8) with the long title "An Act for rebuilding the City of London." The Act was passed in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London and drawn up by Sir Matthew Hale. An earlier Act, the Fire of London Disputes Act 1666, had set up a court to settle disputes arising from buildings destroyed by fire. This Act regulated the rebuilding as well as authorising the City of London Corporation to reopen and widen roads, making the anniversary of the fire a feast day and erecting the Monument. A duty of one shilling on a tonne of coal was imposed to pay for all these measures.
Plans to rebuild the city
Within a few days of the Fire, several proposals with sketch-plans for radical reorganisation of the City's streets were put forward, including one by Christopher Wren, but they had no chance of success, because so many interests were involved and the City wanted to get back on its feet quickly. One of them, by Richard Newcourt, which proposed a rigid grid with churches in squares, was however later adopted for the laying-out of Philadelphia, USA.
Then, in October 1666, King Charles and the City appointed Commissioners, including Wren, to regulate the rebuilding. The Commissioners issued proclamations concerning the width of streets and the height, materials and dimensions of secular buildings. And in February 1667 a Fire Court started hearing many competing claims from owners and tenants as the rebuilding began.
Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren's design, inspired by the Gardens of Versailles, imagined a well-ordered London with vistas and wide, straight streets. His grand plan was not implemented largely because rebuilding was financed by private enterprise and the desire was to rebuild quickly. Without heavy government involvement to carve new roads across existing building plots and ancient routes, the possibility of organising building on such an enormous scale proved to be unfeasible. Much of the ancient layout of the City remained, but rebuilt in brick and stone. He rebuilt the St. Paul's Cathedral in 1670, and was later knighted in 1673.
- 'Charles II, 1666: An Act for rebuilding the City of London.', Statutes of the Realm: volume 5: 1628-80 (1819), pp. 603-12. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47390. Date accessed: 08 March 2007.
- 'Book 1, Ch. 15: From the Fire to the death of Charles II', A New History of London: Including Westminster and Southwark (1773), pp. 230-55. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=46732. Date accessed: 07 March 2007.
- A City Full of People: Men and Women of London 1650-1750 by P. Earle (London, 1994)