From Exeter Flying Post
17 July 1834
"We regret to have to state that this town was but just recovering from the consequences of a former most extensive conflagration, has again suffered to a fearful extent from fire.
At twelve o'clock on Monday night, the unfortunate inhabitants were aroused from slumber by the appalling cry of fire. This proceeded from a baker's, as we understand, living in the street leading to Okehampton, from which it quickly communicated to the houses right and left of it and consequently burnt, both upwards and downwards on that side of the street. The situation of the inhabitants was the most distressing imaginable under such circumstances; as we understand our informants, they have no fire engine, and therefore had to dispatch messengers to Hatherleigh on the one hand and Okehampton on the other, to solicit assistance in this way. This was with the greatest promptitude afforded, but in a distance of several miles it must be obvious that a considerable time must elapse, and it is highly to the credit of all parties that the engines from these places even entered the town at 4 o'clock on Tuesday morning.
During the whole of this period, the inhabitants had exerted themselves in an extraordinary manner considering their limited means, but the havoc caused by the flames had been very great. The houses near the Church all this time seemed perfectly secure, and as the wind blew in the opposite direction, these seemed pointed as a place of convenient deposit, and of safety, and in them consequently a considerable quantity of shop-goods, as well as household furniture and valuables of every kind was lodged. To the rear, some of these adjoin the churchyard, towards which the thatch descends very low, and the grief and consternation of the ill-fated inhabitants may be conceived, for it cannot be described, when from this low thatch, the flames all at once burst forth in a volume and in a force that seemed sufficient to baffle the most powerful efforts to subdue them.
The circumstances attending this have certainly many dark features; the wind was not in that direction, and the fronts of these premises, looking towards the original fire, and which had been turned into depots, were untouched. It will scarcely therefore be wondered that the strongest suspicions of incendiarism should arise. In this, it is our hope, for the sake of human nature, and for the honour of our county, that these suspicions will be enabled to be proved groundless. In the mean time, however, the most rigid enquiry is necessary, and we understand has been set on foot and should it prove to be correct and, as we hope would be the case, detection follow, then will it be the duty of the whole community to call for punishment the most dire on the head of the offender or offenders.
To return, however, to the conflagration, which, with this accession of matter, raged with renewed fury and communicating from house to house, the whole of what we may term the eastern part of the town became one wide and wasting ruin. The venerable Church was in the most imminent danger, and was only saved from destruction by the great exertions of men on its roof, who hazarded all to prevent the fire from gaining head; the steeple also exhibits marks by which its narrow escape is rendered perfectly perceptible.
It was nine in the morning before the fire could be said to be subdued, and with the exception of the house of Mr. Collihole, which is injured, the whole range of buildings running east of his, including all Exeter Street and also the whole range in the street leading to Okehampton, from the Gostwyck Arms Inn (which is preserved) to the house of Mr. Morrish, is destroyed. In fine, to the front of the respective streets, 65 houses are in ruins, and to the rear 5, making a total of 70 houses, exclusive of outhouses and premises attached on various kinds.
The George Inn is among those destroyed and the Durants are among the severe sufferers. Mrs. Wilkey, also, is a great sufferer; Mr. Medland and many others. But the fate of a Mr. Lock seems remarkable; his family we are told were considerable sufferers by the former fire; he had removed into this part of the town and his premises are again destroyed; nor, as we have heard it, is he insured. It is understood that much of the destroyed property was uninsured, and that, as regards that which is insured, the loss will fall heaviest on the Atlas Fire Insurance Office; in the next degree on the Norwich Union; and still more lightly on the West of England and some others.