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A

SHORT ACCOUNT

OF THE

TERRIBLE FIRE AT CREDITON.

*

CREDITON, commonly called Kirton, is one of the most antient and populous towns in the west. In the times of the Saxon kings, it was the flourishing see of the bishop, till king Edward the confessor translated it to Exeter, about the year 1050, It was of old also famous for giving birth to St. Winifred, called the apostle of Germany; because he converted the Hessians, Thuringians, and Frisisians to christianity, and was canonised as a saint.*

The town is divided into two parts, the eastern and the western; the latter of which is, by far, the most considerable for trade, for number of inhabitants, and for the beauty of its buildings as well as their extent. In this western part a very large and frequented market is kept, inferior, it is said, to few in the kingdom, as to two useful conmodities, yarn and flesh. The populousness and importance of the place may be gathered from observing, that fourteen or fifteen hundred serges are, one week with another, here manufactured, and sent abroad; and that aboye seventy bullocks, throughout the winter quarter, is the weekly supply of their shambles.

This western town, as it is called, was one large and extended street, stretching from east to west, above half a mile in length, furnished with

* Cambden's Britannia, Col. 39.

spacious and convenient market-houses, and had a great number of court-leges and alleys branching from it, filled with many families of industrious poor.

About the middle part of this street, on the southern side, the fire broke forth, on Sunday August 14th. about eleven in the forenoon, by the side of a chimney in the thatch, accasioned it is supposed by too great a fire in roasting meat. The town has no supply of water, but from pumps : a drought of several weeks had both much lessened that supply, and prepared the houses to receive and propagate the flame. The wind setting strong, at first from the north-east, and increasing with the fire, the desolation was carried from house to house, with amazing rapidity; so that the southern side, before it, was quickly all in fames. A little past noon, the wind veered towards the South, by which the fire was soon communicated to the North side of the street: so that all Westward from the place of its first breaking out fell, in a few hours, a prey to the raging element, and was turned into ashes.

Eastward, against the wind, it advanced with a slower pace; but neither engines, nor blowing up nor any other means, could stop its dreadful progress, but it continued raging uncontrouled, till about eight in the evening, when it pleased God, at length, to stop its furious course.

The whole Western town with its market-houses and public buildings, a small part only excepted, now lies in the deepest ruins. The flames ran with such violence, flying over five or six houses, at once, and kindling those beyond, that great quanrities of goods, corn, hay, apparel, looms with serges in them, &c. were quickly destroyed. Besides many who were in the utmost danger and were plucked as brands out of the burning: nineteen

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persons bave perished in the desolation. A tragical circumstance, which, perhaps, history can scarcely parallel. In the dreadful fire of London, which raged for three days, and destroyed above twelve thousand houses, it was not known that a single life was lost.

In the widest part of the great street, which is nineteen yards in breadth, five persons were unawares hemmed in by the flames. they ran Eastward and Westward, but found themselves beat back by the fire raging beyond them, and no way to escape.

In this horrible distress they continued for some time, deploring to each other their mi. serable fate. At length finding their case despe, rate, and unable any longer to bear the scorching heat, one of them broke through the burning ruins of an house, whose flames were nigh spent, and happily escaped. Another seeing him not return, and hoping he might possibly have found a passage through, attempted the same, and was also preserved: the remaining three fell a sacrifice and perished in the street.

At the Western end of the town is a large and open field, called the green, above an hundred yards in length, and in breadth above forty three, surrounded thick with houses ; thither the inhabitants brought and lodged their goods, not doubting but there they would be safe from the spreading flame: but even there also they were quickly seized; neither persons nor goods could stand before the sweeping deluge; the men were glad to escape with their lives as a prey, and the goods almost all intirely consumed,

By this terrible calamity above four hundred and fifty families are turned out of their dwellings, a considerable part of which had, for some time, no lodging but the open field, nor any roof but the heavens. The inhabitants, to avoid all ap

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