Construction

As ultimately carried out, the Monument is of the Doric order and constructed in Portland Stone. It consists of a pedestal about 21 feet square and 40 feet high, with a plinth 28 feet square, and a fluted shaft 120 feet high and 15 feet in diameter; on the abacus is a balcony encompassing a moulded cylinder, which supports a flaming urn or vase of gilt bronze, symbolizing the Fire. Defoe quaintly describes the Monument as “built in the form of a candle”. the top making a “handsome gilt flame like that of a candle”.

The Monument, 1841

Its total height is 202 feet, stated in the inscrition on the north panel of the pedestal to be equal to its distance eastward from the site to the house of the King’s baker in Pudding Lane where the fire began. The pillar is not only the tallest but the finest isolated stone column in the world. Within is a spiral staircase with a total of 345 steps; after climbing 311 the staircase opens to a public balcony providing a fine view of the metropolis and especially of the Port of London; in one respect it is finer than that from the height of St. Paul’s Cathedral, since it includes a view of the Cathedral’s dome.

The work of construction occupied six years, from 1671 to 1677, due to the difficulty of getting a sufficient quantity of Portland stone of the required dimensions. This caused the king to issue a proclamation, dated 4th May 1669, forbidding any person to transport stone from the Ise of Portland without leave from Dr. Christopher Wren, the Surveyor-General.

Caius Gabriel Cibber executed the sculpture on the west panel, and the four dragons at the base were the workof Edward Pierce, Jnr., a sculptor and architect frequently employed by Wren. A model, scale one-eighth of an inch to a foot, of the scaffolding used in building the Monument was preserved; it formely belonged to Sir William Chambers, and was presented by Mr. Heathcote Russell to Sir Isambard Brunel, who left it to his son Mr J.K. Brunel. The ladders were of the rude construction of Wren’s time, two uprights with nailed treads or rounds on the face.

In a manuscript preserved in the Guidhall Library (MS. 184, fol.41), which contains particulars of expenses incurred by the Corporation in re-erecting public buildings after the Fire, the total cost of the construction of the Monument is given as £13,450 11s. 9d.

The quantity of Portland stone contained in the column, as estimated by the architect, is 28,196 cubic feet.

1813 Ackermann London Bridge & Monument

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