CAHMS Summer Exhibition, 2023

Dispute, Disaster, Recovery : Crediton and the Great Fire of 1743

The CAHMS Summer Exhibition, The Great Fire of Crediton, 1743 closed at the end of October.

The exhibition was focused on 1743; the year in which a detailed map of the town was completed just a few months before the disastrous fire which destroyed over 400 properties and led to at least fourteen deaths. An exceptional amount of research went into this project – and we had some great stories to tell about Crediton before, during and after the Great Fire.

The exhibition looked at Crediton before the fire, and the events which led to the creation of our spectacular map; the disaster of the Great Fire; and the long process of recovery as the town struggled to return to normal life in the aftermath. We made use of a wide range of resources – many of them never displayed before - and capitalised on state-of-the-art technology to reveal some of the fascinating stories we’re unearthing. There was something for everyone in this exhibition. There was lots about the map and the history of local people and places – as you’d expect – but there was also a wealth of information about life in 18th century England, along with some unexpected tales including a highway robbery.

We were delighted to have assembled a team with some terrific skills for this project. Elly Babbedge is an archivist and genealogist who has concentrated on the “people” aspect. Peter Child is a retired Historic Buildings Officer who has researched many of the old buildings shown on the 1743 map and sought out historic properties which still stand. John Heal, a born-and-bred Kirtonian, has a lifelong interest in the history of his native town. John’s detailed knowledge adds much “local colour” to our exhibition. Lastly, Tony Gale is a local historian with overall responsibility for designing and delivering the project – undertaking much of the research and bringing together the exhibition and the accompanying book (see below).

We have published a book entitled Crediton & the Great Fire of 1743 (paperback @ £15, hardback @ £25). Copies can be purchased at the exhibition, but if you wish to order a copy contact us at


Archaeological Finds Day, 5th November 2022

There were some great discoveries brought into our Finds Day at the museum, run in partnership between CAHMS and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).

Several local people and a few from further afield turned up to have their finds assessed by PAS Finds Liaison Officer Rob Webley. “Our main aim was to see what we might find from 18th century Crediton”, says Tony Gale of CAHMS, “but we were happy to look at anything that people wanted to bring in, knowing that the PAS is keen to record a much broader range of artefacts.” The scheme aims to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales. Every year many thousands of archaeological objects are discovered, many of them by metal detector users, but also by people whilst out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Finds recorded with the Scheme help advance knowledge of the history and archaeology of England and Wales (see the PAS website

Some of the highlights included a couple of very well-preserved brooches from Roman Britain and some very early coins (not found locally) which will be recorded on the PAS database. Important local finds included an early 18th century “onion” bottle; some fragments of highly-decorated pottery from the same era; a gun flint from a nearby farm; and what just might be a Roman coin found in a garden on the edge of Crediton. Another local find was a rabbit trap from the 1920s. “I was bowled over to be shown a 1921 newspaper advert for Adams ‘Yeo Vale Stores’ of Crediton with a picture of this exact model”, said the man who brought it in.

“It was a very successful day for us,” says Rob Webley. “It’s always good to make contact with enthusiasts who want to share their finds with us; that’s what the scheme is all about. We are very keen to encourage responsible detectorists and people who just notice things which might be interesting, and work with them to build our database of finds which help us to learn more about the past.” Some of the finds need further analysis with experts in various fields. “We’ll be keeping in touch with Rob and the team at PAS,” says Tony, “hoping to learn more about our local discoveries. With any luck we will have some new finds to add to the display in next summer’s exhibition at the museum, focusing on Crediton and the Great Fire of 1743”.


 Some interesting aspects of the 1743 Map research:

Blood and Bandages: additional information


Barbers were not just hairdressers


Deaths and Burials following the Great Fire of Crediton, 1743

Evidence of the human toll of the fire from Crediton's Parish Registers


The Fire raging uncontrolled

Description of the fire by Crediton’s Presbyterian minister


Rebuilding the Town


John Wesley and fire insurance


The West Town Market in Crediton : A Brief History


Six centuries of Crediton's High Street market.


The Wig-Maker’s Tale

An account of the fire, extracted from The Gentleman’s Magazine, September 1743


William Chapple’s 1743 Map of Crediton : Encroachments

A transcription of the table of encroachments on Sheet 5 of Chapple’s map