Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Great Fire of Nantwich

In this area of Cheshire there are several towns with the suffix -wich.. As Nothwich, Middlewich and Nantwich  were all involved in the salt industry I had assumed that suffix was in some way derived from that activity.  Having found no evidence to support my assumption I did a little digging and traced the origin to the  Latin word Vicus.  This was a civilian settlement outside a Roman fort.  The experts tell us that the letter V was pronounced W in Roman times so it is a small step to the suffix -wich. ThieRomans often used the term to refer to a mining operation too, so the later application of it to a salt mine is credible.
On 10th December 1583 one Nicolas Brown of Nantwich was brewing beer and somehow set his kitchen alight.  The fire spread rapidly through the timber-framed and thatched houses and in 15 hours destroying 150 builidngs, including 30 shops, two barns and seven pubs.  Women of the town attempted to control the fire by filling small buckets from the river but soon gave up when the landlord of The Bear Inn released his four bears to save them from the fire.


Queen Elizabeth I was so touched by this tradegy that she donated timber and levied a national tax to help pay for the rebuilding of Nantwich as is commemorated by this plaque.


It looks as though they might be finished soon.

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