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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials



From The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

Friday 27th August 1869




On Wednesday last, a most destructive fire broke out in the village of Chawleigh, burning freely for about seven hours, in which time the whole of the centre of the place was destroyed, with the exception of two blocks of houses on opposite sides of the road, which were saved mainly owing to the exertion of the inhabitants and others. The greater part of the houses burnt were in the occupation of tradesmen and farmers, and almost all the furniture was destroyed. The fire was first observed in a piggery at the back of the houses occupied by Messrs Tancock, smiths. It quickly spread to the shop and dwelling house and the fire engine was sent for from Chulmleigh, but it was almost useless. Some water, however, was obtained from wells, and some was fetched in carts from the Little Dart, almost a mile distant.


The Rev. Pelham Fellows Clay, the vicar of the parish, and the Rev. George Cuddington Bethune, Rector of Chulmleigh, and the whole of the inhabitants of the village were indefatigable in their exertions, but, without water, their labours were of little avail. In all, 21 houses were burnt, representing 21 families averaging 4 in a family who were rendered homeless, and were obliged to camp for the night in the fields, in the midst of the small portion of furniture that was saved.


The first buildings which the fire reached after Messrs Tancocks' was a malt-house adjoining, which was used as a storehouse, in the occupation of Mr. Dinning, smith. The malt-house was quickly in flames, and the wind being fresh at the time, the flames spread across the road, and ignited the thatch of the London Inn, a public house, in the occupation of Mr. Webber who is also a butcher. From the London Inn, the fire seized on a block of adjacent cottages, in the occupation of Mrs. Knott, Robert Burridge, John and George Webber and Betsy Stuart; the whole of the tenements were destroyed. the flames then crossed the main road and caught the houses on the opposite side, and at the same time ignited a bakehouse in the occupation of Mr. Whitfield.


Through the exertions of Mr. Holmes, of the Fox and Hounds Inn, Eggesford, and Mr. Edworthy and others, who entered Mr. Whitfield's house and continued throwing water on the roof, that, as well as several other cottages adjoining, were saved. This block  of houses had slated roofs, but those on the opposite side of the road were thatched, and the wind carrying the flames across the road, the whole of the houses opposite were quickly on fire. A barn adjoining Mr. Whitfield's house containing corn, which had only been placed there on the previous day was also burnt. The corn in the barn belonged to Mr. Joslain.


The thatched cottages on the other side of the street were burnt to the ground, as were also the outhouses and a rick of hay at the back. While these houses were on fire, the wind shifted and blew the flames back in a slanting direction, and the result was that several cottages above Mr. Whitfield's and the houses adjoining were also burnt. The Chulmleigh Town engine arrived on the spot between three and four o'clock. At that time, the whole of the centre of the village was in a blaze, with the exception of the houses occupied by Messrs. Webber, Dilling and Smith, and Mr. Whitfield, Baker, and the immediate adjoining houses, and the efforts of the firemen were directed to saving these houses, which they succeeded in doing.


The list of those who were burnt out, or had their houses damaged is as follows:

Messrs G & H Tancock Philip Dart, mason Robert Burridge
Mrs. Knott, widow Grace Olding, Grace Webber
Mr. Dilling Mr. Joslin junior Betsy Stuart
Mr. Webber "London Inn" Caroline Joslin T. Moger
Mr. Joslin, grocer John Ware Edward Hayman
Mr. Chalice, grocer John Ley
Mr. Webber, sexton Mrs. Cosway

Water-damaged houses:

Mr. Webber, smith

Mr. Dilling, smith

Mr. Whitfield, baker



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