The (Great) Fire of Long Sutton

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The site of the Great Fire of 1885 prior to the event. All four properties were destroyed (JM Sadd)

This started in a grocery and drapery shop. The shop was shut and onlookers got into the rear of the building to discover the entire shop floor on fire. The fire spread to surround buildings, taking hold of adjoining shops and ‘illuminating the town with its light and heat’. A nearby butchers shop, pub and seed store were soon ablaze. The town’s fire engine and a private hand engine fought the fire and a telegram was sent to Sutton Bridge for their engine to attend.

Park Line 1885

Park Line 1885

50 yards from the centre of the fire a thatched workshop caught fire and embers from collapsing buildings landed up to one and a half miles away. At least 8 buildings were involved and the cost of the fire in buildings and stock about £8,000 (well over a million pounds today).

There are very few photographs of the town from this period as photography was in its infancy, but many of the older buildings would have been thatched and two big fires in 18 years were probably the catalyst for owners to re-roof with slate or tiles.

At least two buildings on Market Place, Pledgers electrical shop and Palmers Ale House and Kitchen, are known to have been thatched as some of the old reeds have been found in place under tiled roof coverings.

This prompted the owners of Palmers’, our newest treasure in Long Sutton to restore its original covering. Over the past century it has been a butchers, coal merchants, restaurant, wine bar, pub and now eatery and hotel.

Rosa's before the fire

Rosa's before the fire

There is a nostalgic attraction with thatch; it just looks right in our historic town centres. I don’t suppose that there will be a sudden resurgence in the trend for thatch locally though, more’s the pity!

The story of the Great Fire of Long Sutton is taken from A History of Long Sutton by FW &BA Robinson (2008), published by the Society which is out of print. A digital version can be obtained from Amazon.