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FIRE AT CULLOMPTON - 7 JULY 1839

 

From the Exeter Flying Post

11 July 1839

From our Correspondent (See second account below)

FIRE AT CULLOMPTON

" A most destructive fire broke out in this town at half-past twelve at noon on Sunday last. It commenced in the Exeter Road, in the lower part of the town, and from a strong wind prevailing at this time, the burning flakes were carried all over the place; in fact there was scarcely a house on which the fire did not fall, and this too with such a calamitous result, that several houses in different parts of the town were burning at the same time, while the heat was so excessive that the people could not remove their furniture and goods. Indeed, so rapid and destructive was the progress of the flames, that in half-an-hour from the commencement of the fire, it was raging in five different places and the scene of distress that presented itself beggars description, everyone feeling their property to  be insecure, and, wherever possible, each family and person seeking by removal to preserve their own.

While this also was passing, expresses were dispatched to Exeter, Tiverton, Bradninch, and the neighbouring towns, entreating assistance, which was as promptly afforded as the nature of circumstances would admit. The West of England engine from Exeter, reaching this town in less than an hour, having quitted some time after the West Middlesex double engine, the wheel of the latter having completely come off no less than four times on this journey they, however, completed the distance of the 12 miles with great dispatch, being only one hour and 55 minutes from the time of dispatching the express! The Sun Fire Office engine soon followed from Exeter, and we also had the assistance of the West of England engine from Tiverton, and the parish engine from Bradninch. There were, likewise, our own three engines and plenty of water but the Cullompton engines were not in good repair. To the Exeter firemen, the greatest credit is due, as but for them and their intrepid exertions, it is more than probable the whole town would have been destroyed.

Altogether there are 100 houses destroyed and 120 families destitute of  homes, mostly poor weavers. The principal houses and property destroyed are those of Mr. Gabriel, surgeon; Mr. J. Nichols, chemist; Mr. J. Mills, baker; Mr. T. Webber, builder (whose loss, above the insurance, is thought to be £400); T. W. Whitter, Esq, of the Bank had his barn burnt, and corn, wood-ricks and property at the back part of his premises greatly damaged. The houses were all insured - the offices which suffer being the Sun, West of England, West Middlesex Alliance, the Protector and the Yorkshire - the loss being estimated at  from £15,000 to £20,000. While the wood-ricks at Mr. Whitter's were burning, three rabbits with their furry coats on fire, were seen to run from them. From the moment of alarm, the Agents of the different Insurance offices were all very active. The Workhouse is open, free to any poor people who may like to take shelter there. A meeting has since taken place to make arrangements for subscriptions for these poorest sufferers and £80 was collected at that meeting."

 

From the Exeter Flying Post

11 July 1839

From a second Correspondent

"The alarm was given just as the congregation was about to leave the church, at which time flames were seen issuing from a chimney in a back street near New Street, and the thatched roof was soon in a blaze. The fire then rapidly extended itself to New Street, and the wind blowing briskly from the north west, the burning particles were carried to every part of the town, spreading consternation in all directions. In New Street, the flames were raging on both sides of the road, when the well-appointed fire brigade of the West of England Insurance office, under the supervision of Mr. G. W. Cumming, most opportunely arrived and their service, as well as those of the Exeter firemen generally, is borne most honourable testimony to by this correspondent.

The flames spread until they reached the Town Green; houses in the neighbourhood of the White Hart Inn being also on fire, of full quarter a mile from the spot where the fire first broke out. The men of the West Middlesex were desired to use their exertions for the preservation of the the property between the White Hart and Red Lion Inns, a part of the town in which it is very valuable. The West of England Brigade were directed to cut off the communications between New Street and the Green, a duty of the most hazardous description and fearlessly performed, the men having with immense labour to work in narrow streets and passages, exposed to an intense heat, the fire raging furiously on both side of them. The Sun engine and men belonging to it were, were also in a most  perilous situation, being placed, as it were, in the very centre of the flames, but their collectedness was never lost for a moment, and their exertions were attended with great effect. The men of the Tiverton and Bradninch engines also rendered most essential assistance, and with their continued and united exertions, late at night, the power of the flames to do further damage was checked, although the engines did not cease playing on the smoking ruins until 5 o'clock on Monday morning.

With this calamitous account, we are most happy in recording that no lives were lost; a poor fellow, a sweep, was most seriously injured in the spine by the fall of a partition, and his life is considered in a very critical state.

The town presents a most desolate appearance, business is at a stand, and in every direction the still smoking ruins of the destroyed buildings and property meet the view."

 

Editor's Footnote:

"We are authorised by the West of England Office to state "that as soon as the alarm was given, their engine was prepared to start, but were surprised to find that the horses which had been ordered for them had been taken possession of by the West Middlesex men, encouraged by their Agent who was present; and notwithstanding the firemen of the West of England protested against this unfair proceeding, they refused to surrender the horses. In consequence of which the West of England Brigade was compelled to wait for a fresh team, and in spite of the delay, it passed the West Middlesex on the road, and was playing on the flames with great effect long before the West Middlesex arrived.  The West Middlesex people justify themselves in this way, by saying that they should not have done so, had they not been treated in a a similar manner at the last Alphngton fire. Upon an inquiry at the London Inn, this charge appears to be utterly without foundation. They completed the equivocation by asserting that they were not aware that the horses belonged to the West of England, which fifty persons present were prepared to gainsay.,"

 

 

 
 
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