Pye Corner, the site where the Great Fire of London famously came to an end in 1666, has a long and grisly history of which the Great Fire is only one chapter. Accounts of the Great Fire tell us that the Fire began at a bakery in Pudding Lane and ended three days later (having consumed 13,000 houses and 87 churches) at Pye Corner. Christopher Wren’s towering Monument to the Great Fire of London is close to Pudding Lane, but where is Pye Corner?
Today, the tiny Scottish island of Iona is not the easiest of places to get to. It’s a long drive across the Isle of Mull to Fionnphort from the main ferry link with the Scottish mainland at Craignure. However, in the past Iona was the centre of Christianity in the region, as well as being a site of political significance. Travelling by boat, it was easier to reach than its geographical isolation suggests.
I visited the island on a mild September day, after a long drive from the eastern coast of Mull. The sea was clear and calm and made for a smooth passage on the short ferry trip from Fionnphort; later on a pod of dolphins could be seen in the Sound of Iona. It is a peaceful place, with beaches of white sand and outcrops of pink granite. Since the 7th Century it has been a place of pilgrimage, and it continues to welcome thousands of visitors every year.
Having a tendency to explore old graveyards and spend time reading the gravestones may seem morbid to some, but over time I’ve come across many amazing and unusual stories that – but for the survival of a tombstone – would otherwise have faded from history. I have often visited the Lake District with my family and, as it’s only an hour’s drive away from the family home in Lancashire, Bowness-on-Windermere has always been a favourite destination of ours. It was on one of these visits that, rather than walking past the church of St Martin on our way down to the waterside, I suggested we stop and look around the churchyard.