• 1836 – Court Street – Rope works – Billett
  • 1843 – Forder St – Wheelwrights   – Cann
  • 1845 – Cross Street and Back Lane  – major fire
  • 1849 – Forder Street – Cann’s  back premises
  • 1854 – Court Street & Pound Street

1836  Exeter Flying Post, Nov 24, 3

FIRE AT MORETONHAMPSTEAD. – About half-past 5 o’clock on the evening of Friday last, a fire that excited much of apprehension and alarm broke out in the spinning linhay attached to the Rope Manufactory of Mr Billett, at the western end of the town of Moretonhampstead.  The inhabitants with great promptitude repaired to the spot, to which also the engine belonging to the West of England Fire Insurance Company was quickly drawn, and there being a plentiful supply of water, the fire was prevented from communicating to the work shops adjoining.  Its accidental occurrence arose in this way, – Mr Billett was occupied in the process of tarring cord, and perceiving that this material, in the pot over the fire, was getting into a boiling state, he, with an assistant, attempted to lift it off, in doing which some of the tar escaped over the edge of the vessel, and the whole instantly became ignited, sending up a flame that quickly rose to the roof of the building, which was covered with thatch.  Fortunately at the time the wind blew N.N.W. which carried the fire off from the town, or the consequences might have been serious.  Mr B’s loss is estimated at £100, which is far beyond the sum that part of his premises was insured in.

1843   Exeter Flying Post   Nov. 16, 2g

Fire.  Just before 9 pm, fire in Forder Street, starting in Wm. Cann’s wheelwright’s which adjoined Jasper Amery, tallow-chandler’s, premises.  Both properties in ruins.

The fire in Cross Street in 1845

Starting in the bakehouse of Mr John Dayment at the rear of his dwellinghouse in Back Lane, between the Bell Inn and the West of England Agency office, it ravaged through Cross Street and spread to Fore Street.  Despite the lateness of the hour the most active and prompt measures were taken by the authorities to suppress the flames whilst in their infancy, by calling into requisition all the buckets in the neighbourhood and throwing a copious supply of water on to the burning property.  The wind, however, which was blowing rather hard, scattered the fire on to the roof of the dwelling, which being thatched, like most in the town, and in an exceedingly dry condition, kindled with astonishing rapidity, extending to the several apartments of the building almost at the same time.  The houses on each side of the road, occupied by small tradespeople, were ignited in less than five minutes and soon six continuous dwellings were fired.

A small engine was quickly brought to the scene of destruction, but the hose was in such a disgraceful condition as to render it next to useless.  By two o’clock the whole of the houses on one side of Cross Street were in one illuminated blaze.  In the different streets were to be seen families running with their household furniture to the adjacent meadows, fearful that their respective houses would be also destroyed by the progressive visitation.

By three o’clock it may be said that the fire had reached its height.  It had gained the houses on Fore Street. and the authorities, fearing that the whole town would perish, wisely determined upon pulling some of the buildings down with a view to stopping the course of the conflagration.  A number of labourers were instantly set to effect that object in Cross Street and Fore Street and engines having now arrived from Exeter, the work of destruction by six o’clock was got underway.  The town now represented a most desolate appearance, with the whole of Cross Street from the West of England Agency Office to the Bell Inn in ruins whilst a part of Fore Street presented a deplorable sight.

Amongst the premises destroyed was the workshop of Mr Simon Ballamy of the Golden Lion Inn, who was also a wheelwright, Messrs Neck & Sons Drapers & Grocers, the stables of the Golden Lion, Mr Bidder the builder’s house (he was the uncle of George Parker Bidder), and on to the Church House and schoolhouse adjoining, the Kings Arms and the old Corn Market Exchange.  Another prominent building to perish was known as Mount Arthur, an inn with a facade which a newspaper commented “bore testimony to its antiquity with its once famous marble hall”.  The house called the Sun Inn, described as a house & shoemaker’s shop, and small garden was also destroyed.  Forty houses were destroyed and about 50 families were deprived of their habitation.

At the height of the blaze the strong wind carried the smoke away southward and the flames lit up the face of the church clock so that the hands could be seen at a great distance.

(See separate report for the names of residents affected by in the fire)

1849   Exeter Flying Post   Apr 19, 5l

Fire.  9.30 on Friday night, fire in the centre of Moreton, back premises of Wm. Cann, wheelwright, part of which occupied by A.W. Norrish, tallow chandler, as a stable – horse and harness destroyed, and Cann’s timber, chaff-cutter and 2 prs of smith’s bellows.

1854  Exeter Flying Post, Aug 17, 4bc


We deeply regret to state that a fire, most destructive in its nature and calamitous in its results, occurred in the town of Moretonhampstead, in this county, on Thursday last, when eleven dwelling-houses in Court street, and ten dwelling-houses in Pound street were destroyed and upwards of 20 families deprived of their habitations.  It was first discovered about 2 o’clock in the morning, a person then fortunately awaking and seeing a great light, he quickly aroused his neighbours on the opposite side of the street to a sense of their danger.  The fire must have been burning some time, as it had already attained considerable head, and but for this fortunate circumstance, it is to be feared a still greater calamity might have resulted in persons being burnt in their beds.  Happily there has been no loss of human life, but the distress of many persons is very great.  The fire broke out in a stable occupied by Mr John Weeks, carrier, in the courtlage between Court-street and Pound-street, and the stable being so close to each street, and the houses covered with thatch, were in both streets quickly in flames, as also the outhouses, and carpenters? workshop in the courtlage, were but too rapidly enveloped in flames.  Every effort was made to arrest the progress of the fire, the two engines which are kept in the town were placed one in Pound-street, and the other in Court-street, in what was deemed the best position for this purpose, and zealously and actively served.  The supply of water was at first but scanty, but was increased by resorting to the neighbouring brooks.  Men also were judiciously stationed on the houses on the opposite side of Pound-street, the wind blowing from the N.N.E., brushing off and extinguishing as well as saturating with water the thatch with which they were covered, and had not precautions such as these been taken, it may be feared, the destruction of property would have been much greater; fortunately the wind was not blowing very strong.  The communications being cut off, the progress of the flames was arrested, and after the most strenuous exertions of several hours the fire was got under, and happily no accident to any one engaged occurred. The horses belonging to Mr Weeks, in the stable in which the fire originated, were with the greatest difficulty got out, but a horse of Mr Weeks, which was in another house in the same courtlage, was burnt to death.  The house property is insured but much of the household goods belonging to many of the occupants, being of the labouring class, were not.  A subscription is set on foot to relieve the distresses of the poorer class of sufferers.  It is not known how the fire originated.  In consequence of a report being in circulation that the fire was the work of an incendiary, an inquest was commenced on Tuesday, at the White Hart Inn, by W.A. Cockey, Esq., coroner.  The result we shall give next week.