The Fire of London Building Regulations

After the Great Fire of London, in 1666, new Building Regulations were imposed and they, repeatedly updated, have governed London building ever since. The face of London was changed for ever. From a wooden City it became a brick one. This was the period of Wren and, if you compare a Wren house with the wooden houses in Holborn, you see how the new Fire of London Building Regulations transformed London. A new style was born.

The Fire of London Building Regulations

  1. All houses were to be in brick or stone; no wooden eaves were allowed.
  2. Roofs were pushed back behind brick parapets.
  3. Wooden window frames were reduced. Later they were recessed behind brick so that only a narrow edge of the wooden frame was exposed to possible fire. This give the later houses of Swift's time their delicate proportions.
  4. Thatch was forbidden. Roofs were to be in slate or tile.
  5. Party walls between houses had to be thick enough to withstand two hours of fire. This would give the neighbours a chance of rescuing the people and extinguishing the blaze before it could spread.

These regulations changed the face of London for ever. They have been modified and altered since to suit later requirements but the regulations still govern our building.

Fire of London Building Regulations transformed London. A new style of building was born.

A roof built safely behind a pediment wall.

The frontage is flat. There were no projecting ledges to trap the heat and so help a fire to spread.

1714 Houses with pediment roofs.

Sisters' Houses, in Church Street, opposite the Library, were built little more than fifty years after the Fire of London. These are typical Wren style houses, in rich red Queen Anne brick, made from the local Brickearth. They have M-shaped roofs tucked safely away behind high pediment walls on three sides and the rain drains to the back. All the roof timbers are short. The window frames are painted white and are fully exposed. Later on the Building Regulations would force the frames back behind one layer of brick, as an extra protection against fire. Houses like this, with only a narrow edge of wood showing, can be seen further along Church Street, opposite Abney Park Cemetery gate. The window frame is the normal size but most of it is hidden. The exposed wooden edges are so narrow that they give an air if delicacy to the whole house.

An elegant Church Street window.


The Forbidden Thatch


A Dorset house built of limestone, with a thatched roof in reed and tall red brick chimneys. The end block has a half hipped gable end and the top windows have square eyebrows. These allow the thatch to extend well beyond the walls and throw the rain clear. The square eyebrows fit in well with the flat edges of the half-hipped roof nearby This type of roofing was banned after the Fire of London. The open wooden barn has a similar half-hipped roof but in red, clay tiles which were not banned.

++But what has this to do with the houses in Milton Grove?

from fire of London Build Regs20.6.07.doc

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Revised: October 16, 2011 1:20 PM