Destructive Fire - 7th April 1829

Transcription of an Article which appeared in the London Standard - Friday 10 April 1829

Watercolour by Henry Joseph Moule c 1877
[by kind permission of the Dorset County Museum]

This picture shows Fordington High Street running from left to right in front of a row of terraced thatched houses.
Although thought to have been painted later in 1877 it shows how closely packed the houses still were in Fordington
and how extensive an area was covered in thatch which could easily catch fire.

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT FORDINGTON. About half-past eleven on Tuesday night last, a stable, at Fordington, adjoining this town, belonging to Mr. John HAYNE, was discovered to be on fire. An alarm was instantly given: and a great number of the inhabitants of Dorchester and Fordington, being aroused from their slumbers, promptly repaired to the scene of devastation, and powerfully exerted themselves to sub- due the flames.

The whole of the contiguous buildings being roofed with thatch, the destructive element raged with the most alarming rapidity, and seemed for a time to mock every attempt made to stem its progress; and in about half an hour after the discovery of the fire, it had extended to three large barns and granaries, one of which was full of corn, three stables, four dwelling. houses, and one valuable rick of wheat. The appearance of the flames at this time was awful in the extreme, the whole of the buildings presenting a mass of burning materials, and the fiery flakes, which floated to an immense distance, threatening destruction to the whole of the houses in the neighbourhood, as they are thickly built, and all covered with thatch.

The flames, feeding on the dry straw which was so abundant, towered to an amazing height, and the effect was powerfully increased by the darkness of the night.

So rapid was the spreading of the flames, that the inmates of the cottages, who are poor labourers, named WHITTLE, FOOT, FRANKLAND, and WAY, had barely time sufficient to escape with their lives; and in two of the houses, it was found impossible to save any material portion of the furniture.

In one of the cottages, a large quantity of furniture, belonging to PLOWMAN, Esq., had been deposited, in order to be taken care of, until removed to the Mansion-house nearly opposite, where Mr. Plowman intended to reside The whole of this, valued at about £300 was destroyed. In the stables which were consumed were five horses, and before any attempt could be made to liberate them, two had fallen a prey to the insatiate element, and the other three were so dreadfully burnt that it was thought necessary to kill two immediately. A cow and calf were also burnt to death before any assistance could be rendered them. The cries and groans of the poor animals, which could be distinctly heard, though no effort to relieve them could avail, were distressing and harrowing in the extreme. The loss of property by this sad event, has been very great, and it is supposed exceeds £3,000.

All the premises belonged to Mr. HAYNE, who, we are sorry to add, is but partially insured in the Globe Office. In a building which was but a few yards from the stable, in which the fire was first discovered, nearly half a ton of gunpowder was deposited, which was, however, speedily removed to a field at some distance.

We have not yet been enabled to ascertain precisely the cause of the fire, which is somewhat involved in mystery; a considerable degree of suspicion was entertained that it was the act of an incendiary, and a man and woman of a disgraceful appearance, who had been seen on the premises several times in the course of the evening, were apprehended, and yesterday underwent an examination before the magistrates of the district ; when, nothing being adduced to criminate them, they were acquitted of the charge, but were subsequently committed to prison for vagrancy Dorset County Chronicle.

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