Fire in the City: Artists in the Blitz

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14 Sep - 18 Dec 2023


After the Great Fire of 1666, new churches were built by Sir Christopher Wren across the City of London. In 1940-41 fire once again wreaked devastation across the City during the Blitz and thirteen churches were destroyed. The night of 29 December 1940 is sometimes called the ‘Second Great Fire of London’.

The iconic image of Wren’s dome of St Paul’s Cathedral rising above the smoking ruins of a blitzed London was as an enduring symbol of resistance. Among the firefighters who fought to save St Paul’s and the City Churches were a remarkable group of artists. Painters including W.S. Haines, Reginald Mills and Paul Dessau recorded the experience of firefighters thrown into the horror of the Blitz, from dramatic paintings of incidents to more reflective scenes of firefighters at rest. Women, who joined the fire service for the first time in the Second World War, worked as control operators, despatch riders and delivery drivers and a small number were also artists, including Julia Lowenthal and Mary Pitcairn.

As part of the celebration of Wren legacy, the London Fire Brigade Museum in collaboration with the Square Mile Churches tells this powerful story of resilience and regeneration through an exhibition of reproductions of paintings by firefighter artists, and contemporary photographs from the LFB archive.


You can drop in to visit across the following venues:

  • St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street: Monday to Friday, 8.00am – 5.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 3.30pm
  • The Temple Church, Temple: Monday to Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Please note there is an admission charge.
  • St Clement Danes Church, the Strand: Monday to Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm, Saturday 10.00am – 3.00pm
  • St Andrew Holborn Church: Monday to Friday 9.00am – 5.00pm
  • St James’s Church, Piccadilly: Monday to Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm