Monument re-opens

For a while, from 2000, I worked in an office right next to the Monument, in the City of London. In fact, our office had a balcony which was overlooked by those hardy individuals who made it to the top of the Monument’s 311 steps. We, on the other hand, had lifts.

The Monument has just been re-opened to public access after an 18-month restoration project, and as the back-story goes, its 202-foot height was Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke’s nod to the starting-point of the Great Fire of London; not at the site of the Monument itself, but 202 feet away in Pudding Lane.

Before moving to that office I worked in one in Clerkenwell, just north of Smithfield meat market. Just south of Smithfield there is a much less well-known (and shorter) monument commemorating the same fire. This one, mounted about 10 feet up on the corner of Cockspur Street, is called the Golden Boy of Pye Corner. He is a chubby little cherubic figure, and his statue was apparently erected by non-conformists who drew the following moral: the great fire of London started in a bakery and ended at Pye (Pie) Corner, thus indicating that it was God’s admonition against the sin of gluttony.

If I remember correctly, the Golden Boy was not contemporaneous with with construction of the Monument; but apparently, neither was the installation of a carved panel on the East face of the Monument (1681) which ascribes the fire not to divine punishment for gluttony, but to rather more direct action by Papists. Fitting the religious sub-text to suit the political message is not a 21st-century invention.

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