Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz

a selection of City churches
Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz image
Event has ended
This event ended on Friday 8th of December 2023

a selection of City churches

Nearest Tube/Rail Stations
Mansion House 0.12 miles

During the Blitz (1940-41) fire raged throughout the Capital, with 13 of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches destroyed and the night of 29 December 1940 becoming known as the ‘Second Great Fire of London’.
As part of Wren 300, which marks the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), the London Fire Brigade Museum, in association with the Square Mile Churches, has created Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz, a series of pop-up displays featuring high-quality reproductions of paintings by firefighter artists, along with contemporary photographs from the London Fire Brigade archive, that tell a fascinating and inspiring story of resilience and regeneration.
Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz incorporates several key themes including introducing the Auxiliary Fire Service and the Firemen Artists, the Blitz and the destruction of Wren’s churches, and a landmark exhibition that took place in America, which was part of Britain’s efforts to encourage the United States government to join the War in support of the Allies.
The exhibition will be on display across a selection of City churches from 15 September through to December 2023 and features a variety of dramatic scenes, including firefighters, many of whom were civilian volunteers, desperately trying to combat the gathering inferno. Among them, was a remarkable group of artists, including the painters Wilfred Stanley Haines (1905-1944), Reginald Mills (1896-1951) and Paul Dessau (1909-1999), who all recorded the experience of firefighters thrown into the horror of the Blitz, from dramatic paintings of incidents to more reflective scenes of colleagues at rest.
After the original Great Fire of 1666, Sir Christopher Wren built 51 churches and St Pauls Cathedral in the City of London and while St Pauls Cathedral survived the onslaught of the Blitz, 13 Wren churches were destroyed. The London Blitz lasted from 7 September 1940 until 11 May 1941. Between 7 September and 2 November, the Luftwaffe subjected London to heavy bombing every night except one. More than 20,000 people were killed. 327 men and women from the fire service were killed in action and over 3,000 seriously injured. The Germans’ key weapon in the Blitz was the incendiary bomb, a device designed not to explode on impact, but able to burn at 2,500 degrees. Thousands of these were dropped creating fires and threatening to overwhelm London. Cannon Street by Paul Dessau captures the hellish scenes surrounding the heroic AFS, as they fought to limit the raging fires around them. Fire in the Strand, a watercolour by Reginald Mills depicts St Clement Danes after it had received a direct hit from an incendiary bomb which pierced the roof. The bell tower acted as a funnel and sent flames shooting into the air. By morning nothing remained but the tower and exterior walls.
Fire in the City will open from 15 September and can be seen in the following churches:
• St Mary Le Bow: Monday to Friday, 7.30am – 6.00pm. Open weekends on an informal basis.
• St Mary Aldermary: Tuesday to Friday, 7.30am – 4.00pm
• St James Garlickhythe: Monday to Wednesday, 10.00am – 4.30pm, Thursday, 11.00am – 3.00pm, Sunday: 9.00am – 1.00pm. Friday & Saturday, CLOSED.
• St Magnus the Martyr: Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am – 4.00pm, Sunday, 10.00am – 1.00pm (Mass at 11am)
• St Stephen Walbrook: Monday to Friday, 10.30am – 3.30pm
(Venue details may be subject to change so it is advised to check individual church websites for the latest information).
A second series of participating churches will host displays from the end of October through November.
Helen Vigors from WREN 300 says: “The Wren300 project provides a wide range of activities that will ensure these churches are better known and appreciated, that they are an enriching experience to all who come to them, Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz will do just that in shining a spotlight on a pivotal moment in their history.”

For more information about the exhibition and participating churches, visit and click on the ‘What’s On’ button. Alternatively, go to the London Fire Brigade museum website.

Tags: Exhibition

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