"God grante ovr ryal Qveen in England longe to raign for she hath pvt her helping hand to bild this town again."

December 10th 1583: A Nantwich brewer (Nicholas Brown) in Waterlode accidentally starts a fire - in one account from cooking, in another from brewing ale. The blaze burned on for 20 days, destroying 150 houses and inns and leaving 900 people (half the population of Nantwich) homeless.

Two people lost their lives and the transportation of salt (an integral industry in the town) was halted. Among the buildings that survived the fire were Sweetbriar Hall and Churches Mansion (Hospital Street), as well as St. Mary's Church, where many Nantwich residents took shelter. The bells of the church rang out to warn others about the fire.

Not only did the people of Nantwich initially have a fire (and a bucket shortage...!) to contend with: The Bear Hotel (now 14 High Street / Hope House Charity), was home to four dancing bears, used for entertainment. The hotel owner set the bears free to save them from the fire.

Queen Elizabeth I began a nationwide collection for funds to rebuild Nantwich after the fire, contributing £1,000 (worth about £204,554.70 as of 2017) herself. To put this into perspective, this amount at the time could have purchased 121 horses, 555 quarters of wheat or paid the wages of a skilled tradesman for 20,000 days...!

A plaque can still be seen on the Queen's Aid House in Nantwich Square which commemorates this act.

"And to help in another way, the queen granted licenses to six local people to export grain free of duty for 10 years, with the profits going to the appeal."

The Queen allowed the use of wood from Delamere Forest to aid with the rebuilding of the town. The wood was transported via Beam Street.

And as for the man who started the fire? It was off to the stocks on Pillory Street for him...!

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The Great Fire of Nantwich, Cheshire, 1583 

Herbert St John Jones (1872–1939)

Source: Nantwich Museum