The 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire of Newport 1665
A memo written in the Newport Parish Register by Thomas Munk, with transcript. Shropshire Archives ref: P207/A/1/1
The year before the Great Fire of London, Newport had its own Great Fire.
In 1665 Newport was a busy market town. It was very crowded. The
streets were narrow and dusty. Many of the houses were made of wood and very close together. Inside their homes, people used candles for light and cooked on open fires. Fires were also used to make many things that we make in factories these days.
In Newport, a man called Richard Shelton worked as a smith. He worked with metal and, to make the metal bend into shapes for things like tools and horseshoes, he had to heat it in a very large fire.
On Friday 19th May, something went wrong in the smithy. We don’t know exactly what happened, but sparks from his fire caught the timbers of the building and set it alight. The flames spread through his building into the nearby streets.
Soon Newport was filled with smoke. The sky was red with huge flames from the fire.
By the middle of the following day, 162 families were made homeless More than ten houses had been pulled down and many others were burned. The houses were pulled down to create spaces – fire breaks – to prevent the fire spreading further. Luckily no-one lost their life.
The King wrote to the nation, asking them to take pity on the people of Newport whose houses had been destroyed.
After the fire in Newport, when houses were rebuilt, the streets were widened and are still like that today.
Here is the Transcript of memo on The Great Fire of Newport. The original document belongs to St. Nicholas Church but is lodged at Shropshire Archives.
“that on the ffrydaye in the afternoone beeing the 19th daye of May Anno 1665 a suddon furious fire arose whiche began in the house of Richd Shelton, a smith, living at the Antelop, whiche by Saturdaye noone followinge were burned out of habitation about 162 familyes besides the better of 10 more of houses pulled to pieces – and much prevented
I Thos Munk.
Newport sin no more, lest a worse punyshment b’ fall thee.
The loss to Newport was 30,000 pounds.”
Here is the Letter Patent, sent on behalf of King Charles II, 1665
The original document is in London, but this transcript tells us that news of the fire in Newport had spread to London in 1665. This was the year before London’s Great Fire. It also tells us how people were encouraged to give money to help Newport people rebuild their homes.
“Whereas upon the 19th day of May in the 17th year of our reign between the hours of 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon a most sudden, fearful and dismal fire happened in our market town in the County of Salop, which within the space of a few hours consumed and burnt to ashes above one hundred and fifty and six inhabitations, so that the whole loss sustained by the said fire doth amount in all to the sum of £23,948 and upwards to the ruin of most of the inhabitants of the said town, their wives and children, unless they be speedily supported and relieved by the Charitable Benevolence of well-disposed Christians.
We do hereby recommend their sufferings to the charity of our loving subjects, that in this case their Bowels of Compassion will be the more enlarged, and their charity extended to those distressed inhabitants who at mid-day full and flourishing in good buildings, ample furniture, plentiful provisions and store of necessities and before midnight deprived of all,
made empty and nothing, compelled to lodge in open air, and seek hospitality at the hand of others. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight for thou knowest not what evil may be upon the Earth.
In witness of this we have caused these our letters to be made Patent for the space of six whole years next after the date hereof to endure no longer. Witness ourselves at Westminster the fifteenth day of October in the eighteenth year of our reign.”