Tourists are intrigued by London's Great Fire and Great Plague

WHAT is it about celebrity trivia questions that so fascinate us?

Spooky reminder: Evoking memories of London's Great Plague, the skulls under the stairs in the Anchor Tavern aren't real, but they certainly look the part.

Spooky reminder: Evoking memories of London's Great Plague, the skulls under the stairs in the Anchor Tavern aren't real, but they certainly look the part.

Like what are the real names of movie stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Doris von Kappelhoff – Doris Day; Isidore Dempsky – best known as Kirk Douglas; Virginia McMath – we know as Ginger Rogers.

The Anchor Inn: Diarist Samuel Pepys wrote his definitive description of the 1666 Great Fire of London at a table in the pub.

The Anchor Inn: Diarist Samuel Pepys wrote his definitive description of the 1666 Great Fire of London at a table in the pub.

Then there is the question as to why former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is in the Guinness Book of Records - he drank a yard of ale faster than anyone in history.

Great Fire of London: The canny Samuel Pepys saved his expensive wheel of parmesan cheese by burying it in his back yard.

Great Fire of London: The canny Samuel Pepys saved his expensive wheel of parmesan cheese by burying it in his back yard.

And why was the name of Australia’s Mount Kosciusko changed to Mount Kosciuszko? As the meerkat will tell us: “Simples”. The British colonial authorities originally misspelt the name of the Polish military hero Tadeusz Kościuszko.

Recently on the quiz show The Chaser Australia, a contestant was asked which food renowned English diarist Samuel Pepys buried in his back yard to save it from the Great Fire of London in September 1666.

He wrote he borrowed a cart to “to carry away all my money, and plate, and best things”. He also dug a hole “and put our wine in it; and my Parmazan [sic] cheese.”

After doing so, he left his home near the Tower of London and went across the River Thames, where he watched the conflagration from a pub.

He carefully wrote down his vivid description of the destruction of buildings such as the original St Paul’s Cathedral and hundreds of houses, including his own.

The Chaser didn’t tell us why Pepys buried his parmesan. The wheel of cheese would have weighed at least 45 kilograms and been aged for at least two years. The longer it matured the more valuable it became.

Today there are more than 300,000 wheels of parmesan, worth an estimated $6 million, stored in bank vaults in Italy alone. Obvioiusly Pepys knew his cheese.

Tourists today sit in the Anchor Tavern on the site of the inn where Pepys wrote about the fire and the Great Plague of the previous year.

In Pepys’ time the pub was frighteningly known as Deadman’s Place, because next door was a massive pit where victims of the Great Plague were unceremoniously dumped and covered in lime.

Today’s proprietors have cashed in on the nickname. Under the stairs are some fake skeletons covered with cobwebs. 

The Anchor Tavern was known as the Castle at the time Pepys penned his description of the Great Fire. “All over the Thames with one’s face in the wind you were almost burnt with a shower of fire drops,” Pepys wrote.

“[There] was one entire arch of fire above, a mile long, the churches, houses, and all on fire at once. A horrid noise the fire made and the crackling of houses in their ruin.”

Needless to say, these days it is a much more relaxed atmosphere. However Pepys would feel out of place. The pub serves typical local pub grub ... with the only cheese on the menu, a lasagne with an English cheddar sauce. 

No sign of any parmesan.

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