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The Great Fire of Potton 1783

There was a great fire in Potton in 1783 in which many important documents and buildings were destroyed. Before the fire Potton was a busy, prosperous market town dealing mainly in wool. Around the market square were the large houses and stores of the wool staplers, farmers and gentlemen. On 14th August a hay stack in King Street burst into flames and the resulting sparks set fire to half the town in half an hour. Four hours later the fire was out and the best part of the town burnt down. Two great inns and the buildings all round the market place and in the road leading to it, along with the great houses and woolhouses, stables, grain stores and barns belonging to Messrs Raymond, Livelong and Butler, were destroyed. The workshop of Mr Millar and the furniture and clothing in the curate’s house were gone. Every house except one in King Street had burnt down. The town never fully recovered its former importance.

The calamity was news much further afield than Bedfordshire. A contemporary flyer, printed at Chester for circulation in the midlands and north of England [CRT130Potton28] reads as follows.

LOSS by FIRE

Whereas on Thursday the 14th Day of August last, a most terrible FIRE broke out in the Market Town of POTTON, in the County of Bedford, about Two in the Afternoon; which, in the Space of Four Hours, entirely consumed more than one Half of the said Town, together with almost the Whole of the Furniture, Wearing Apparel, Stock in Trade and Effects of every Kind, belonging to the Inhabitants, to a very great Amount; and also all the Barns, Stables, and Out-houses, with the Grain, Implements of Husbandry, and every Thing contained therein, together with several Ricks of Hay. The Loss of the said Sufferers, upon a most moderate Computation, and when all Insurances are deducted, amounts to the Sum of THIRTY THOUSAND POUNDS and upwards, which has reduced them to the utmost Distress, and the greatest Part of them must have even perished for want of the Necessaries of Life, if they had not been most humanely and seasonably supplied by the neighbouring Gentlemen and Persons of every Rank.

Therefore it is most humbly requested, that all charitable and humane Christians, will take into their mature Consideration, the Distress of the aforesaid poor Sufferers, and contribute towards their Relief, without which Hundreds of them must remain miserable Objects the Remainder of their Lives.

At a Meeting of the Committee of the Gentlemen of the County of Bedford, at the Sun Inn, at Biggleswade, on Friday the 5th Day of September 1783, on Behalf of the Sufferers by the late Fire at Potton.

Ordered That Mr. JOHN TROTT be desired to go into the County of Derby, Chester, and Lancaster, or any other County he may think proper, to solicit Subscriptions on Behalf of the Sufferers by the late Fire at POTTON , to be applied only to the Relief of such Persons who are not able to sustain their Loss

Signed by

  • JOHN DILLY, SHERIFF
  • ONGLEY
  • G. PAYNE
  • WILLIAM PYM
  • E. GORUM
  • S. KETTILBY
  • JOHN HARVEY
  • C. BARNETT
  • R. THORNTON

N. B. Any Subscription paid into the Hands of Mr. Bayley, Market Harborough; Mr. Charles Upton, or Mr. Crompton, Banker, Derby; Mr. Lowndham, Attorney, or Mr. Mansfield, Leicester; Mr. Abel Smith, or Mr. John Wright, Nottingham, Messrs. Jones, Bankers, and J. Harrop, Printer, Manchester, will be duly transmitted for the Benefit of the aforesaid Sufferers.

It is humbly requested that the several Clergymen of Derbyshire, Cheshire, Lancashire, and other Counties, will, with their Church-wardens, solicit Subscriptions, and use their Interest in Favor of the unhappy Sufferers; and that those of Cheshire and lancs, will transmit their Collections to Mr. Speed, Deputy Register, at Chester, or to Mr. Collinson, at Lancaster, or Mr. Hogg, at Richmond.