The Golden Boy of Pye Corner
by Ben Johnson
Although most people are aware that Pudding Lane was the starting point for the Great Fire of London, few know where it finally stopped. The answer? A rather seedy corner of medieval London, at the corner of Cock Lane and Giltspur Street.
During this time, Cock Lane was one of the few places in London (with the notable exception of the relatively lawless Southwark) where brothels were legal, whilst its neighbour Giltspur Street had an equally dubious reputation as the place where the Lord Mayor of London stabbed Wat Tyler.
At the corner of these two streets stood ‘The Fortune of War’ pub, a rather unsavoury drinking hole where during the early 1800’s body-snatched corpses used to be held in a backroom until the surgeons at the nearby Saint Bartholomew’s had time to pick them up! It seems almost ironic then that the Great Fire of London stopped its seemingly inexorable charge at this very point, saving both the Fortune of War pub as well as the entire street of Cock Lane.
The Fortune of War pub at the turn of the century. Notice the Golden Boy of Pye Corner in his original position! Thanks to Richard Greatorex at oldebreweryrecorder.blogspot.co.uk for use of this image.
Although the Fortune of War pub was demolished in 1910, a small 17th century memorial was saved and still stands in its original position. Originally known as ‘The Fat Boy’, the monument was gilded some time in the 1800s and was subsequently known as the ‘Golden Boy of Pye Corner’.
Although the main purpose of the memorial was to mark the point where the Great Fire of London ended, it was also meant as a warning to Londoners that their gluttonous vices had been the cause of the fire. Why? Because the fire began in ‘Pudding’ Lane and ended at ‘Pye’ (or Pie) Corner! As the inscription on the memorial states:
This Boy is in Memory put up for the late Fire of London
Occasion’d by the Sin of Gluttony.
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