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Great Fire of London: Wealthy buried wine to save it

Wealthy Londoners buried fine wines to save them from the flames of the Great Fire of London 350 years ago, according to the diary of Samuel Pepys.

The UK capital is marking 350 years since the Great Fire of London.

Flames engulfed much of the City of London after a fire broke out at a bakery on Pudding Lane in 1666.

A diary entry from Samuel Pepys tells of how some people, including himself, buried their wines in the ground in an effort to save it from the inferno.

Pepys worked for the British government and documented life in London. He principally worked for the Royal Navy but also became a member of Parliament.

Pepys’ diary entry for the 4 September 1666 tells of how a Navy colleague, Sir W Batten, came up with a plan to save his wine from the fire.

‘He dug a pit in the garden and laid [the wine] there,’ wrote Pepys.

‘In the evening, Sir W Pen and I dug another pit and put our wine in it, and I my Parmesan cheese and my wine and some other things.’

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The plan worked.

Pepys later wrote that he dug up his wine on 14 September and returned it to his cellar.

His said his biggest problem at the time was preventing the porters from seeing the ‘money chests’ that he also had in the cellar, he wrote.

Pepys did not name wines in his collection, but he was believed to enjoy Haut-Brion and Bordeaux wine was already building a fan-base with London’s wealthy.

He wrote in his diary on 10 April 1663 that he had tried a wine named Ho Bryan ‘that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with’.

Historians have translated Ho Bryan as Haut-Brion.

Museum of London has started a new exhibition to commemorate 350 years since the Great Fire of London. The exhibition began on 23 July and runs until 17 April 2017.

Visitors to London can see wine goblets and other items retrieved from the Lord Mayor’s cellars benath Guildhall, which was destroyed in the fire.

London’s oldest existing wine merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd, was ‘only’ founded in 1698 and so beyond the reach of the fire.

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