Friday, 5 February 2016

London's Cock Lane, Where the Great Fire Ended.

Don't get too excited. Cock Lane was named for the male chicken. But it is a place of considerable interest. It was here that the Great Fire of London of 1666 was finally stopped, or got tired. On the eastern end of this one block street, at its intersection with Giltspur Street, a pub once stood, the Fortune of War. It later became a notorious hangout for body snatchers or resurrection men who supplied fresh corpses to London's anatomists, but that's another story. 

After the fire was snuffed out, some civic-minded folk put up a warning on the wall of the pub. They attached a golden cupid-like statue called the Golden Boy of Pye Corner. The inscription below the statue read: "This Boy is in Memmory [sic] Put up for the late FIRE OF LONDON Ocassion'd by the Sin of Gluttony." The pub is no longer there, but the statue and inscription are. You have to look up to see it, because it is placed about fifteen feet above the ground. 



At the other end of Cock Lane, a short distance away, is the locale of another fascinating story, that of the Cock Lane Ghost. The ghost allegedly haunted a house here in the 1760's, a century after the Great Fire. The famous lexicographer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, exposed the ghost as a fake, alas, but it caused quite a stir and a scandal. The story is too long to relate here, but you can learn about it in a book by Paul Chambers, Cock Lane Ghost: Murder, Sex, and Haunting in Dr. Johnson's London.

If you turn left at this end of Cock Lane, you will quickly arrive at Newgate Street, named for the famous prison which stood nearby. You will pass St. Sepulchre Without Newgate, the largest parish church in the City. 




St Sepulchre's bells are the "Bells of Old Bailey," in the rhyme "Oranges and Lemons." A special bell was rung on the days when executions took place at the prison, which was pretty often until the late nineteenth century. The execution bell is displayed within the church, which ironically has been the official musicians' church of London for many years.








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