London 1666

Building a future from the past.

Three hundred and 50 years ago, London was a different city, a maze of streets made up of tightly-packed wooden houses. Fires were not uncommon in the city, and at first, no-one took much notice. But the conflagration quickly spread and the fire that took hold on 2 September 1666 was devastating. It took a united effort to extinguish it.

London 1666 takes the history and makes it a modern day story. As part of London's Burning, this hugely ambitious project brought together young Londoners not in education, employment or training, to recreate a vast 120-metre-long wooden sculpture of Restoration London.

Designed by American artist David Best, this extraordinary representation of the 17th-century London skyline will eventually be floated on the river Thames and set alight in a dramatic retelling of the story of the Great Fire.

A project of epic proportions, it is the work of many, involving months of learning and participation work with children and young people across five boroughs adjacent to the City of London (Hackney, Camden, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Islington).

Six hundred schoolchildren have already taken part in workshops exploring the history of the Great Fire. Each has drawn their hopes for London in the future, and several of these designs be crafted into decorative panels and become part of the final sculpture.

For young unemployed Londoners, this inspirational project has been a potentially life-changing opportunity to take part in the construction of the piece, and to gain a CSCS certificate and further employment qualifications in a unique and collaborative working environment. 

Their involvement in this unique commemoration of a major moment in history will make it their story, and an opportunity for us all to consider what we want next for London.

See stories from the build and watch it burn live on this website.

With major support from