THE FIRST post-pandemic meeting of Warwickshire’s History Society proved a welcome rise from the ashes.
Members embarked on a ‘Fire of Warwick History Walk’ retracing the flames which blazed across the High Street after a thatched roof caught alight near Lord Leycester Hospital in 1694. The fire burned for six hours, destroying people’s homes and businesses, although did not result in the loss of any lives.
The reunion, as members heard – rather fittingly – how the community worked together to recover its losses, was described as ‘a mental and spiritual tonic’.
Historian Stephen Wallsgrove explained the relief and reconstruction efforts, showing facsimiles of surveys, claims for compensation, and other documents held by the County Record Office.
The response of the local elite was swift since Lord Brooke of Warwick Castle started a subscription fund to cover people’s losses, the day after the fire. Commissioners were appointed to scrutinise the claims of inhabitants with a view to compensation.
To reduce the risks of further fires,a local Act of Parliament established strict building regulations. Thatch and timbered construction were banned in favour of plain frontages in brick and stone.
While rebuilding took years, it enabled Warwick to establish the wide, straight streets and a coordinated classical style familiar today.
Although the society has been active with online meetings, members welcomed the chance to meet in person again.
One said: “After so long, it was revitalising to be able to meet, interact and learn with real people in the flesh. Not only a physical tonic with the walking, but also a mental and spiritual one.”
The next open-air meeting will be a trip to Napton-on-the-Hill on July 17.
Visit warwickshirehistory.org.uk for details.