Norfolk

Wymondham Great Fire: remembered 400 years on

A contemporary drawing of a fire
Image caption A drawing of a fire illustrates how townsfolk would have tried to deal with the blaze

A great fire that swept through the Norfolk town of Wymondham, destroying over a quarter of its homes, is being marked 400 years on.

Historians have been working on the project to mark the arson of 1615, for which four people were hanged.

Now a booklet detailing the fire has been published by a local team and reveals the havoc the blaze created.

This Saturday the anniversary, with a modern twist of a fire engine, will be commemorated in the market square.

The fire was started by travellers, John Flodder, his "pretended" wife, Ellen Pendleton, and his brother William. The trio also roped in a local accomplice, called Margaret Bix.

Image caption Shaded areas show affected areas of the village back in 1615

Historian Georgette Vale said the fire spread quickly through wooden and thatched buildings. As it was a Sunday, everyone was at church, and the town would have been deserted.

She said: "A lot of damage was caused, and of course it was high winds that day, and much of Market Street as we know it and Bridewell disappeared, quite possibly it was set on fire in two places.

"Vicar Street was also burned. The vicar had nothing but the bible in his hand and the clothes on his back."

More than 300 people lost property or belongings that day.

Ms Vale said: "They (the pepretators) didn't run away afterwards, they seemed to hang around to watch it...they weren't going to miss the fun by running away, and then they were caught."

The booklet was started by the late John Wilson, then chairman of the Wymondham Heritage Society. It was taken over after his death by Wymondham historian Adrian Hoare.

A book on the fire was published by Wymondham Heritage Society. Copies are available at the Market Square exhibition on Saturday and at the Heritage Museum shop in Wymondham.

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