Tuesday 18 December 2012

The Great Fire of Cambridge

Before 1849 Cambridge market covered an L-shaped area stretching from Petty Cury to the northern end of Peas Hill.

The present market layout came about after a terrible fire that took place on the night of Saturday 15th September 1849, often called 'The Great Fire of Cambridge'.

In 'Cambridge Revisited' Arthur B. Gray recalls the events of the fire:

Market Hill - 1900s
'The fire-engines of the police, the various insurance offices and those belonging to Trinity and
St.John's were soon upon the spot, but alas! the key to Hobson Conduit could not be found. The final
discovery of the key only increased the prevailing excitement and confusion, for the firemen were soon vigorously squabbling over the limited water supply.'

'Matters were improved, however, by the numberless buckets and pails which literally showered upon the crowds
of willing helpers, who soon formed themselves into lines of supply to the engines now upon the scene.'
Market Hill - 1937

The fire raged on and was only put out at about 6am. Eight houses where burnt down and others were seriously damaged.

Senate Hill and the south side of Market Hill was used to dump all the broken and damaged furniture. The Police oversaw the whole operation to ward off looters.

Hobson's Conduit was removed from Market Hill to its present site at the junction of Trumpington Road and Lensfield Road. A new fountain was put up in the centre of the market in 1855, but in 1953 it was found to be unsafe and taken down. It was removed to the yard of the Cambridge and County Folk Museum, which is the former site of the old White Horse Inn in Castle Street.