Rebuilding after The Fire

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After the Great Fire a grand opportunity was missed for embanking the river and keeping the houses some distance back from the water. There is little doubt that both Evelyn and Wren had suggested this, as in the proclamation issued by the King these words occur:

"We do resolve and declare that there shall be a fair key or wharf on all the river side; that no house shall be erected within so many feet of the river";

And then, further, "that these buildings shall be no otherwise than fair structures for the ornament of the city, and that no brewers, dyers, or sugar-bakers shall be allowed to carry on their trades, which, by their continual smoke, contribute much to the unhealthfulness of adjacent places in or near this line."

This proclamation was issued seven days after the fire, and very shortly after an Act of Parliament was passed, which, among other good rules, ordering that all new buildings should be of brick or stone, enacted that a spacious wharf, forty feet in breadth, should extend by the riverside from "Tower Wharf to the Temple Stairs."

The coal tax was then put on to enable the city to carry out this scheme; and that an Act so useful and so conducive to the future appearance of the city should have been allowed to remain a dead letter is extraordinary.

What a magnificent appearance the riverside would have presented, and how much expense it would have saved for the ratepayers of the future, who have yet to complete the unfinished Victoria Embankment through the city to the Tower or beyond.

Only four years after the passing of the Act we already hear of the utter disregard of it. A petition is laid before the Council at Whitehall from a Captain Will Clarke and others, setting forth that, after having ordered their several buildings near London Bridge in accordance with its provisions, and built their new waterhouse there, it will be a great detriment to them unless the wharf is continued.

"That, before the fire, a common lay stall and necessary house stood there, which are being now rebuilt, notwithstanding that the petitioners had set back their building, and the Surveyor-General had ordered that these obstructions should be forborne. Nevertheless, divers people, including the Alderman of the Ward, for their private convenience, have begun again the same lay-stall, and so thereby poison the waterhouse, annoy the passengers on the Thames, and be otherwise infectious to the city."

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