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
Bringing alive one of the most turbulent periods in Londons history, the gallery is full of treasures from the Museums unique collections, including printing plates from Londons earliest map, rare delftware pottery, exquisite Jacobean jewels, Oliver Cromwells 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 Shakespeares 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.
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 Londons 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 Wars 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.