Pepys: After the Fire

A play for BBC Radio 4 broadcast over five days exploring the life of Samuel Pepys, after the Great Fire.

Now aged 70, Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, is living with his former servant, Will Hewer in Clapham. In frail health and feverish, he is haunted by dreams of the Great Fire of London nearly 40 years ago.

Episode 1

After the Great Fire is extinguished, smouldering ruins are all that remain of the City of London. 13,000 homes, 88 churches, and many key buildings have been destroyed or damaged including markets, jails, the Guildhall and St Paul's Cathedral. Pepys witnesses first-hand the impact it has on the city and its people, and remembers how thousands of those made homeless by the fire were camped out on the fields of Islington and Moorfields.  

Episode 2

After the Fire, the clear up begins. But when Sam and his servant Will go out in the carriage to look at the City, there's so much rubble they can't even tell where they are.

Someone had once described old London as looking like a hastily constructed bonfire waiting for someone to put a match to it. No one wants that back. King Charles calls for designs for a magnificent new city. Three of Sam's closest friends - John Evelyn, Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren - are among those eager to present their ambitious ideas.

Episode 3

Following the Great Fire, three new designs have been presented to the King by friends of Samuel Pepys: John Evelyn, Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke. But plans for an ambitious new London are soon watered down. The disruption to trade means that the city is losing money fast. People must get back to work as soon as possible. Utopian visions are out, and compromise is the order of the day. Meanwhile, demolition work at St Paul's Cathedral causes problems with the neighbours, and a fire at Sam's home in Seething Lane threatens not only the occupants but also his precious library.

Episode 4

Pepys has a visit from Sir Christopher Wren, who tells him of the death of an old friend, Robert Hooke. Hooke played a key role in the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, at the time when Wren had been commissioned to redesign St Pauls. For his third design Wren made an enormous model, large enough to walk through, and presented it to the clergy for their approval.

Episode 5

Sam is feverish from infection and close to death. It is time to put his affairs in order. He gives instructions regarding his will. A visit from one of his oldest friends, John Evelyn, prompts him to look back on events in his life, in the city he has loved. St Paul's Cathedral, once devastated in the Great Fire of almost forty years ago, is almost finished. At last London has arisen anew from the ashes.

Find events commemorating the Great Fire of London.

Cast:

  • Samuel Pepys - Kris Marshall
  • Elizabeth Pepys - Katherine Jakeways
  • Mary Skinner - Eiry Thomas
  • John Evelyn - Mathew Baynton
  • Will Hewer - John Biddle
  • Jane - Rebecca Newman
  • Christopher Wren - Tristan Sturrock
  • Gibbons - Matthew Gravelle
  • Hoyle - Ewan Bailey

Produced and Directed by Kate McAll. Written by Hattie Naylor

Theme music: Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, words by Robert Herrick and music by William Lawes. Lute, baroque guitar and theorbo played by David Miller. Violin and viol by Annika Gray, and recorders by Alice Baxter. Sound by Iain Hunter

A BBC/Cymru Wales Production, directed by Kate McAll