From the Exeter Flying Post
10 April 1878
"At Crediton, great excitement was caused by a fire which broke out about one o'clock on Sunday, and in the course of the afternoon completely destroyed eight houses and seriously damaged seven others. The fire first broke out at the back of some premises occupied by Mr. J. Perkins, butcher and dairyman, in Parliament Street. An alarm was raised, and the local engines belonging to the West of England Fire Office and the Volunteer Fire Brigade, were soon on the spot, but it appears that their operations were much impeded at the outset by a lack of water.
The wind being high, the flames spread rapidly to the adjoining houses occupied by Messrs Boxer (fly proprietor), Pope (hatter), Groves (baker) and Gratton (carrier). They were all old premises and being covered with thatch, it soon became evident that nothing could save them, and by two o'clock, they were completely gutted. Much of the property contained within had, however, been removed to a place of safety by the occupiers, and they found plenty of people to help them in the work but, as usual at such time, a great deal of damage was done through excess of zeal.
The fire brigades worked well, and by their exertions succeeded in checking the further spread of the flames at that point. A telegram which had been sent to Exeter for assistance was then countermanded, but shortly afterwards, another fire broke out in a workshop belonging to Mr. Inch, builder, in North Street, about two hundred yards distant, and a second message had to be sent to Exeter for help. It is supposed that this fire was caused by lighted sparks blown from the burning premises in Parliament Street. With a fire at both ends of this thoroughfare it now seemed probable that the whole neighbourhood, which is thickly covered with old buildings, would be destroyed and the alarm of the residents may be well imagined. Mr. Inch's workshops and all the valuable plant and materials they contained burned away furiously and the blaze could be seen for miles. The stock included a quantity of manufactured goods ready to fit up in the Black Dog schools at Washford Pyne. This was burnt as well as about £50 worth of Mr. Inch's tools and the tools of his workmen. A pony was saved, but a new set of harness purchased for him perished in the flames.
A house occupied by Miss Way and the back premises of Mr. William Ward (veterinary surgeon), and Mr. Hector (tailor) abut on Mr. Inch's workshop, and these were destroyed by fire. Mr. Hector's dwelling house, which faces north Street, was partly burnt, and most of the roof of Mrs. Allen's (greengrocer )- the house below - was smashed so as to cut off the connection and prevent the fire spreading down the street. These houses had previously been cleared of their contents, and also the premises of Mr. Badcock. In the removal, a very large quantity of the goods was smashed beyond redemption and much of the household furniture cleared out from the the residence of Mr. Ward was handled with equal disregard for its preservation. The back premises of Mr. Hurson (pork butcher), of High Street, also ignited and the fire consequently burned property in streets forming three sides of a large square.
In the course of the afternoon some sensation was caused by the removal of a corpse from one of the houses which seemed to be in danger of taking fire, and a bed-ridden patient had to be removed from another tenement. In response to the appeal sent to Exeter, the second West of England and the Norwich engines were forwarded. They reached Crediton about three o'clock, and the good supply of hose they carried enabled those in charge to get a supply of water from a source not previously available. This was a great advantage and after about three hour's most praiseworthy exertions on the part of the united brigades, the fire was subdued.
At one time in the afternoon, the back premises of the Manor House, occupied by Mr. Symes, solicitor, which are situated just opposite Parliament Street, caught fire. The flame was extinguished before it had done much damage, and that little is covered by insurance with the West of England Office. The extent of the loss is not yet known, but it may be estimated at several thousands of pounds, and fortunately a considerable part of it appears to be covered by insurance. The goods and furniture of Mr. Perkins are insured in the Sun, his house (owned by Mr. J. Shepherd), is also insured in the same office; Mr. Grove' s building and contents in the Sun; M. Pope's building and stock partly insured in the Atlas; Mr. R. Boxer's goods were not insured but the house owned by Mrs. Taylor is insured in the London & Liverpool, and Globe; Mr. Inch's stock was insured for £150 in the Sun Office, but he allowed the insurance on his building to run out at Midsummer last.
At a meeting of the Crediton Improvement Commissioners on Monday, a vote of thanks was accorded to Captain Heygate and the members of the Crediton Fire Brigade for their praiseworthy and gallant exertions at the fire.