On December 10, 1583, a Nantwich brewer living in the Waterlode, accidentally started a blaze which burned for 20 days, destroying 150 houses, inns and other buildings.
The fire made around 900 people – half the population – homeless, but fortunately, only two people perished.
Transporting of salt, a principal product of Nantwich, was stopped for a while and the use of the town as a military staging point was halted.
The support of the town by trade and industry was a matter which concerned Queen Elizabeth I and her Privy Council. As a result, she ordered a nationwide collection for funds to rebuild Nantwich, to which she contributed £1,000. This deed is marked in a plaque on a building in Nantwich Square, now called “Queen’s Aid House” (pictured).
A modern translation would read: “God grant our Royal Queen in England long to reign, for she has put her helping hand to build this town again”.
John Maisterson led four local men in administering the funds and poor relief, and overseeing the buying of trees in Buerton, near Crewe, and Wirral. It took about three years to rebuild the town in the established medieval street pattern.
Following the Queen’s generosity, May 1 in both 1584 and 1585 was known as “Queen’s Day”. After that the name fell into disuse.
This item is based on an article by the late Eric Garton, a 20th Century Nantwich historian, in a souvenir brochure for the 400th anniversary commemorations of the Great Fire and Rebuilding of Nantwich, which records the events that took place in 1983-4.
A painting depicting the Great Fire of Nantwich by local artist Herbert Jones can also be viewed at the Museum.
Further emphasising the severity of the threat of fire in a town like Nantwich, the Museum also displays a 17th century fire engine and one of the old fire insurance marks, which today is recognised as the Museum’s logo.