Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz

An exhibition of reproductions of paintings by firefighter artists, and contemporary photographs from the London Fire Brigade archive

After the Great Fire of 1666, new churches were built by Sir Christopher Wren across the City of London. In 1940-41 fire once again wreaked devastation across the City during the Blitz and thirteen churches were destroyed. The night of 29 December 1940 is sometimes called the ‘Second Great Fire of London’.

The iconic image of Wren’s dome of St Paul’s Cathedral rising above the smoking ruins of a blitzed London was as an enduring symbol of resistance. Among the firefighters who fought to save St Paul’s and the City Churches were a remarkable group of artists. Painters including W.S. Haines, Reginald Mills and Paul Dessau recorded the experience of firefighters thrown into the horror of the Blitz, from dramatic paintings of incidents to more reflective scenes of firefighters at rest. Women, who joined the fire service for the first time in the Second World War, worked as control operators, despatch riders and delivery drivers and a small number were also artists, including Julia Lowenthal and Mary Pitcairn.

As part of the celebration of Wren legacy, the London Fire Brigade Museum in collaboration with the Square Mile Churches tells this powerful story of resilience and regeneration through an exhibition of reproductions of paintings by firefighter artists, and contemporary photographs from the LFB archive.

Where to see the exhibition

Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz is on display across a five City churches from Friday 15th September. Each church has different panels from the exhibition, so visit them all to get the full story. From Tuesday 24 October the exhibition will move to a new cluster of churches to the west of St Pauls Cathedral. 

Admission to the following churches is free, with the exception of the Temple Church. Please check individual church websites before visiting as opening times are subject to change.

Please be advised that the last day of the exhibition is Friday 1st December.

St James’ Church Piccadilly will close on Friday 24 November. The panels in this church are duplicated in other churches where they will remain until 1 December’
  • St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street: Monday to Friday, 8.00am – 5.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 3.30pm
  • The Temple Church, Temple: Monday to Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Please note there is an admission charge
  • St Clement Danes Church, the Strand: Monday to Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 3.00pm
  • St Andrew Holborn Church: Monday to Friday 9.00am – 5.00pm
  • St James’s Church, Piccadilly: Monday to Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm

If you would like more information about the firefighter artists a good place to start is ‘Firemen Artists 1940-45’ by Anthony Kelly, published 2013.

*Please note this exhibition is series of information panels and does not include the actual paintings. They are in storage as we work on plans for a new Museum for London Fire Brigade.

“Like so many Londoners in the Blitz, the firefighter artists were very courageous and saw horrors that most of us can’t even imagine now. They were also curious, creative and compassionate. Their paintings reflect this and are the reason they remain so compelling to a modern audience.

The firefighter artists are not well known, and with the Brigade’s art collection currently in storage, this exhibition is a great opportunity to tell their story, out in the City, where they were working during the Blitz”.

Dinah Winch, Curator – London Fire Brigade Museum

Please note this walk explores the impact of the Blitz in the City and does not include a visit to all the churches that are displaying the Fire in the City exhibition.

Fire in the City Guided Walks

To complement the exhibition we have three City walks which will focus on the impact of the Blitz, and the firefighters who fought to save the City from the threat of fire in the Second World War.

Wednesday 18 October, 1.30-3.30pm

Book your place on this walking tour here

Tuesday 5 December 1.30-3.30pm

Book your place on this walking tour here

Wednesday 15 November, 10.30am-12.30

Book your place on this walking tour here

15th September 2023 - 1st December 2023

All Day

Across various City Churches



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