Great Fire of Warwick

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The Great Fire of Warwick was a major conflagration that swept through the small town of Warwick, England, beginning at 2:00 p.m. on 5 September 1694 and lasting for six hours. The fire started from a spark from a torch that was being carried up High Street. The town’s small population, the close-packed nature of the environment, and the amount of combustible building material all lead to the fire’s start and spread, and the limited fire-fighting methods of the time helped transform the small torch fire into a catastrophic event.[1][page needed]


The Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick was severely damaged by the fire. The fire progressed through Castle Street, Market Street, and High Street until it was halted by the 0.5 metre thick stone walls of the former Lord Leycester Hotel on Jury Street. If the fire had not been stopped by the church and struck the suburbs, it would have burnt all the way to the edge of town. The original estimates had the financial damage totaling around ₤90,000–₤120,000 and the physical damage at around 250–460 houses, but later the Book of Estimates had the damage at 157 houses totaling between ₤40,000–₤60,000.[1][page needed]

Effects on architecture[edit]

The Great Fire of Warwick made builders review the way they constructed buildings. The Fire Act of 1694 established new rules and regulations on architecture. The Act stated that public streets and roads should all be made a certain regulated width.[2] It also provided regulations for a standard house design: two storeys of 10 feet in height each with cellars and garrets. This gave the town of Warwick symmetry, uniformity, and a new flair. The fire caused an urban design revolution of sorts. The post-fire homes in Warwick also got rid of the jetted façades and the concept of timber-framed construction in which floors of buildings overhung each other.[1][page needed] The town gave compensation to those whose property was destroyed by the street widening process just so that the Fire Act rules would be followed.

The beautiful post-fire buildings are credited to Francis and William Smith.[2] In 1695, William was appointed as the surveyor for the fire council. Although he was officially appointed just to follow the council's orders, William took some direction to oversee the rebuilding himself. William throughout his life had a lasting legacy on Warwick, twice serving as the city's mayor from 1713–1714 and 1728–1729.[2] Francis joined his brother in the reconstruction of St. Mary's Church, but later became a successful architect, overseeing the project of the new courthouse. Francis also had a lasting impact on the town. Francis served on the Town Corporation in the 1720s and was the head of maintenance during the 1730s until he died in 1738. The Smith brothers had a lasting impact on the new and beautiful architecture of Warwick and passed on the tradition of architecture to their sons.[2]


Sources used[edit]

  • Borsay, Peter (2002). "A County Town in Transition: The Great Fire of Warwick, 1694". Provincial towns in early modern England and Ireland: change, convergence, and divergence. Proceedings of the British Academy. 108. Oxford University Press. pp. 151–170. ISBN 978-0-19-726248-1.
  • Evans, Lise (2007-10-26). "Lisa Evans looks at the rebuilding of Warwick after the Great Fire of 1694". Trinity Mirror Midlands Limited. Retrieved 28 January 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • "The Great Fire of Warwick".
  • Michael Farr (1992). The Great fire of Warwick: 1694: the records of the commissioners appointed under an act of Parliament for rebuilding the town of Warwick. Hertford: Dugdale Society. ISBN 0-85220-069-2.

Coordinates: 52°16′49″N 1°35′22″W / 52.2802°N 1.5895°W / 52.2802; -1.5895