The Great Fire of Norton, Thursday 3rd April 1788, was reported in the Bury and Norwich Post of Wednesday 9th April 1788.
The part of the village which was destroyed was from Church Lane to Norton Hall Cottages on the north side of Ashfield Road. The following is an abridged version.
The fire started at between ten and eleven o’clock in the morning in a back parlour of a shop belonging to a Mr Samuel Chapman and is thought to have been caused by a blower being left on the fire. The shop, dwelling house and office, together with a newly erected, neighbouring bake-house, were completely burnt down. A very strong wind was blowing from the west and the flames took hold of buildings next door belonging to farmer Mr Booty. His farmhouse was slightly damaged, but his barn, stables and out-houses were completely destroyed along with all the farming implements and a quantity of hay and straw. The next farm to be destroyed was that occupied by Mr. George Burt. The farmhouse was damaged and all adjoining buildings, barn, stables and out-houses were consumed, together with a cow and two calves, 100 coombs of corn and 15 tons of hay.
(A coomb was a very large farm sack which held 4 bushels or 32 gallons. Beans (dense stuff), 22 stones weight. Wheat (fairly heavy) 18 stones. Barley (Not so heavy) 16 stones. Oats (the lightest grain)12 stones).
The fire then transferred to another farmhouse also owned by Mr. Burt. This was completely destroyed along with all outbuildings. The fire then badly damaged Mr. Ship’s and Mr. Grimwood’s houses, their barns, corn and hay being destroyed. Mr Ellis’ bake-office and stable were burnt to the ground along with nine cottages which were the homes of fourteen poor families. They are in great distress as most of their furniture was also lost to the flames.
In all 20 families have been made homeless, but what is worse, is that none was insured, except the shop where the fire started.
The exertions of Mr. Alderman Patteson of Norwich, the principal land owner of the village and The Rev. Orbell Ray of Tostock are worthy of praise. They have asked for subscriptions from neighbouring villages to help those who have lost so much. It is greatly regretted that so many people had not taken steps to insure themselves from such a calamity, especially as the cost is so trifling in comparison to the loss.
April 16th. We are happy to hear that an accurate account of the losses sustained by the late dreadful fire at Norton is being prepared to be laid before the public and there is little doubt that a liberal subscription will be obtained for the relief of the unhappy sufferers.
April 23rd. Meeting held at The Pickerel, Ixworth, Tuesday 15th. Present:- Sir John Moore, Bart., Thomas Preston DD., John Godbold Esq., Thomas Pemberton, Clerk, and others. The damages which were occasioned by the fire in the Parish of Norton were taken into consideration and after strict examination of the sufferers, and of their estimates, the loss sustained in corn, hay, furniture and other effects, EXCLUSIVE OF BUILDINGS, was found to amount to £617. 13s. 9d. It was then resolved that a committee be formed and an advertisement be placed in The Ipswich Journal and Bury Post asking for donations from the Hundreds of West Suffolk. John Patteson and Rev. Orbell Ray were chosen to distribute any funds raised among the sufferers.
June 17th 1788, Ixworth. The gentlemen who formed the committee after the fire in Norton have the satisfaction of informing the public that due to the great generosity shown, the funds raised have been more than adequate to meet the estimates of the sufferers. Mr Patteson and Rev Ray will oversee the full amount being paid to each claimant, immediately. A meeting will be held at The Pickerel on Tuesday July 15th at 12 o’clock, to consider how any surplus funds should be disposed of.
Thank you David Burt for Submitting this!