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The winter of 1666 found London deluged by a destitute population without homes or places of employment. The King, courted by ambitious speculators, planned a grand scheme to elevate a rebuilt London to the heights of modernity, envisioning a clean, spacious city not engulfed by the wooden structures of its previous incarnation.
To encourage this venture, Parliament passed the Judicature Act which created Special Fire Courts to resolve landlord disputes. Chaired by the King’s Bench, they become renowned for their speed of verdict, much to the delight of the city surveyors. The Fire Courts sat from February 1667 to September 1772. However, a 1673 survey listed over 3000 unoccupied houses in the city, noting that a quarter of London’s pre-fire citizens had left for other cities and towns, and also on to greater opportunities in the New World.
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