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 photograph 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 Rudolf Haybrook, 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 feature in several of the images, including drawings by the artist Julia Lowenthal.
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.
On display across a selection of City churches.
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Copyright © 2023 The City Deanery (Diocese of London)
Website photography @ Angelo Hornak, Grant Smith, Hannah Spedding and Marc Gascoigne.
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