Some stories of the source of the fire.
The wig-maker’s account tells us that the Great Fire of 1743 broke out in “Robert Francis’s house” – which is corroborated by the map.
Many local people remember the story that it was caused by some men playing cards while a joint of meat for their Sunday lunch was roasting in the hearth. Engrossed in their game, they paid no attention to what was happening in the hearth.
Neither of the contemporary sources (Towgood, or the Wig-Maker’s Tale published in the Gentleman’s Magazine) mentions these details.
The earliest source we have for the story comes from Alfred Edwards, who was compiling notes for a history of Crediton in the 19th century. He never published, but one of his notebooks contains the comment:
“Thos Madge tells me that the great fire of 1743 broke out at the house of one Cowley, an innkeeper where a party playing cards threw some of the dripping of a leg of mutton which was being roasted for them into the fire, which ignited the soot in the chimney. Cowley was never heard of after the fire”.
Venn repeated this story in his book, written in the 1960s.
Who was Thomas Madge? Where did he get that story? And who was “one Cowley”?
Like many good old stories, it may contain some truth – and some elaborations added as it was told and retold over the years.