War, Plague and Fire at the Museum of London

War, Plague and Fire, a new gallery exploring the tumultuous century from the accession of Elizabeth 1 in 1558 to the Great Fire of 1666 opens this week at the Museum of London.

The Great Fire Experience
Bringing alive one of the most turbulent periods in London’s history, the gallery is full of treasures from the Museum’s unique collections, including printing plates from London’s earliest map, rare delftware pottery, exquisite Jacobean jewels, Oliver Cromwell’s death mask, and archaeology from the fire that nearly destroyed the city.

The much loved Great Fire Experience, one of the oldest models in the Museum, has been relit with new fibre optics, visual and sound effects. As the gallery opens there is also a rare chance to see the vest believed to have been worn by Charles I at his beheading, complete with gruesome stains.

The London in this gallery shows a divided metropolis: home to pleasure-seekers, who flocked to Shakespeare’s plays, and evangelical Puritans, who wished to burn the theatres down. But it was also a centre of trade with a network starting to reach around the globe. The city grew beyond its walls and the population trebled. The gallery sees London transforming from medieval to modern.

Charles I execution tunic
Hazel Forsyth, Senior Curator of Post-Medieval London says: “This was a period of revolution in almost every sphere of human life. Maritime expansion laid the foundations of the British empire and London’s fortunes were transformed. By 1660, the capital was the commercial centre of the world. Overcrowded and divided, many Londoners prospered but others struggled to make sense of their new urban and overseas world – a world shaken by war, plague and fire.”

In 1649 London saw the Civil War’s most momentous event – the execution of King Charles I. More troubles were yet to come. In 1665 plague raged through the city, killing some 7,000 a week. Then the city suffered its most cataclysmic disaster: the Great Fire of 1666 which obliterated a third of London in just five days.

See how London survived. Just.

The Museum of London tells the lively story of London from prehistoric times to the present day. Find out what Romans ate for dinner, experience the Great Fire of London and find out when pointy shoes first became fashionable. Reconstructed interiors and street scenes are displayed alongside original artefacts found in the Museum’s archaeological digs. The Museum is open daily 10am-6pm and is FREE to all.

On 28 May 2010 the Museum of London unveils its Galleries of Modern London: a spectacular £20 million redevelopment telling the story of London and its people from 1666 to the present day, placing the Museum at the heart of the capital ahead of the 2012 Olympics. Three years in the making, five new galleries and over 7000 objects reflect how the vibrant and unflagging energy of Londoners has shaped this global city.