The Great Fire 1826 – Contemporary Newspaper Reports


The Morning Post – 2nd March 1826

Dreadful Fire

Monday afternoon a servant of Mr Saunders, of Kempstone, near Bedford, shot at a pigeon which was sitting on a rick in the farm yard. The wadding set the thatch on fire, and the wind being very high, the whole farm yard was immediately in flames. The burning premises being in the centre of that large village, a scene ensued that baffles all description. The volumes of smoke and flakes of fire carried by the wind to other houses near, soon caused a general conflagration. The astonished and afrighted inhabitants knew not what to do, for in less than fifteen minutes, the farm yard and thirty seven other houses were blazing. Every assistance was given with the engines from Bedford, and a good supply of water, but at nine o’clock Tuesday morning it was still burning.

The Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette – 4th March 1826


Destructive Fire – It is with regret that we have this week to submit to our readers, an account of a most dreadful conflagration which took place on Monday last, at Kempston, near this town, which completely reduced to ashes a great part of that populous and extensive village. The devouring element commenced on its distressing havoc about one o’clock, upon the farm yard and premises in the occupation of Mr Saunders, farmer of that place, in consequence of a man in his employ, imprudently and carelessly discharging a gun at some pigeons which had settled on one of the barns, and the contents of the gun lodging in the thatch, (the wind blowing very strong at the time, and which it continued to do the whole day,) immediately set fire to the barn, and from thence it communicated to the yard, and consumed all the other buildings adjoining; the whole of the dead farming stock, consisting of four carts and numerous other implements; the whole of the hay and corn, comprising two wheat hovels, a bean rick, a large rick of hay, and a rick of straw, with much other property. The fire flying in large flakes from these premises, set fire to and burnt to the ground, two cottages, a dwelling house and a bake-house belonging to Mr White of Cardington Mills, four cottages belonging to Mr Dudley, and thence to Mrs Douglass’s farm yard, where the house and all the buildings, with the greatest part of the household furniture, were totally destroyed. The fire next reached the bake-house, dwelling house and several other out-buildings in the occupation of Mr Dudley, baker, from thence to a cottage standing near, and then to a farm yard, occupied by Mr Allen, the whole of which, in a very short time, were consumed to ashes. Several other small cottages, occupied by labourers and other poor families, were also destroyed by the flames in the course of the afternoon and evening, leaving many of their former inhabitants destitute of house or home; for whom, and the suffers at large, a subscription is about to be entered into, which we hope will be liberally contributed to by a generous and sympathizing public. To describe the distress and confusion this awful event caused at the moment, or at present to attain any estimate of the damages or number of buildings consumed, is impossible. It was with great satisfaction we witnessed the indefatigable assistance by the engines, gentry, and inhabitants of Bedford and the surrounding villages, to check the progress of the devouring element, which was not accomplished until the evening and indeed, the whole of the fire was not extinguished until late the following day.