The great Monument.

A school project was the unlikely prompt for a spontaneous family visit this weekend. What could bring home more immediately the reality of the Great Fire of London of 1666 to a small child than a visit to the Monument, which was erected to memorialise it? This great column still holds its golden head high among the growing office blocks of the City, yet it is tightly boxed in by buildings and set in a backwater between busy roads.

Until the reconstruction of London Bridge on a different site in 1830, it overshadowed the main thoroughfare from the old bridgehead into the City. So its great inscriptions and imagery—including the allegorical image of devastated London being raised up under the direction of Charles II and uncomfortably bombarded from above by the riches of Providence—would have been visible to everyone. The modern layout of roads and buildings has completely overwhelmed all sense of this setting. Only the porch beneath the tower of St Magnus the Martyr nearby testifies to the weight of traffic and people that once surged to and fro across the river. The climb to the top offered a fresh perspective of the City—what a memorable and exhilarating dose of history, and good exercise for us all.