chapter 20

Howe a great fire, like to distroye all Chestre, by myracle ceased / whan the holy shryne was borne about the towne by the monkes.

stanza 229

1598From the incarnacion of our sauiour incarnation
A thousand / a hundreth yere, .lxxx. also,1180 years / altogether
On sonday in mydlenton / the .viii. houre,One / mid-Lent / 8th
Whan euery paresshen theyr churche went toparishoner
As all christen people of dutie shulde do,
A fyre by infortune rose vp sodeinly,fire / misfortune
All flamyng feruent or the people dyd espy. 1 hot / before / saw

stanza 230

1605This fearefull fire encreased more and more,
Piteously wastyng hous / chambre / and hall;
The citezens were redy their cite to succour,help
Shewed all their diligence / and labour continuall,continuous
Some cried for water / and some for hookes dyd call, 2
Some vsed other engins by crafte and policy,devices / skill / design
Some pulled downe howses afore the fire, truly.

stanza 231

1612Other, that were impotent / mekely gan praye powerless / began to pray
Our blessed lorde / on them to haue pite;pity
Women and children cried 'out and waile-a-way','alas, woe!'
Beholdyng the daunger and perill of the cite;
Prestes made hast diuine seruice to supple,hurried / say
Redy for to succour their neyghbours in distres
(As charite required) and helpe their heuynes.distress

stanza 232

1619The fire contynued without any cessynge,ceasing
Feruently flamyng euer contynuall,Hotly / always continuing
From place to place meruaylously rennyng,marvellously running
As it were tynder consumyng toure and wall.As if it were tinder
The citezens sadly laboured in vayne all;all in vain
By the policie of man was founde no remedydesign
To cesse the fire so feruent and myghty.stop

stanza 233

1626Alas, great heuynes it was to beholdeheaviness, misery
The cite of Troye all flamyng as fire; 3
More pite of Rome cite was manyfolde,pity
Feruently flagrant / empeiryng the empire: 4 damaging
As to the quantite, the cite of Chestire In terms of the scale (of the fire)
Myght be assembled this styme in like case Might at this time resemble a similar situation
To the sayd citees, remedeles, alas!without remedy

stanza 234

1633 Many riall places fell adowne that day,
Riche marchauntes houses brought to distruction,
Churches and chapels went to great decay:
That tyme was brent the more part of the towne;bruned / greater
And to this present day is a famous opinionwidespread
Howe a myghty churche, a mynstre of saynt Michaell,
That season was brent and to ruyne fell. 5 At that time

stanza 235

1640Whan the people sawe their power insufficient,
By diligent labour / wysdome and policye,good judgement / design
To subdue the fire / but styll dyd augment:but rather it still increased
To almyghty god they dyd call and crye
And to saynt Werburge, the gracious lady,
For helpe and succour in such wretchednes,
Wepyng and waylyng for woo and heuynes.woe / misery

stanza 236

1647 Thabbot and couent of the sayd monasterieThe abbot / monks
Religiously lyuyng in holy conuersacion,manner of living
Repleit with mekenes and feruent charite,Filled / humility
Toke the holy shryne in prayer and deuocion,
Syngyng the letanie bare it in procession,Singing the litany carried it
Compasyng the fyre in euery strete and place,
Trustyng in Werburge for helpe, aide and grace.


Alan Thacker remarks on the story of the Chester fire attributed to the 'third passionary', commenting that '[T]hat story was undoubtedly current almost immediately after the events it purported to describe, since it was also recorded by Lucian in his De Laude Cestrie, written and the abbey in the 1190s. See A.T. Thacker, Early Medieval Chester, Lewis and Thacker, 2003, 16-33, 31, also available via British History Online. Back to context...
These hooks may have been those fixed to the top of ladders for climbing buildings or hooks used for pulling down structures in the path of the fire. Back to context...
In these lines Bradshaw compares the destruction of Chester during the great fire to the burning of Troy or Rome. These epic comparisons with the great cities of classical myth and history elevate the status of Chester and present the fire as a momentous, legendary event. Back to context...
The slightly contrived use of the verb empeiren here enables word-play on 'empeiryng' and 'empire'. Back to context...
Alan Thacker notes that 'in the mid 12th century a "monastery" of St. Michael in Chester was supposedly among the gifts of William fitz Niel to Norton priory. It was presumably the "mighty minster" of St. Michael later said [by Bradshaw] to have been burned down in the great fire of 1180'. See A.T. Thacker, Medieval Parish Churches, Lewis and Thacker, 2005, 133-155, 146, also available via British History Online. This monastery of St Michael was not the same as the medieval parish church of St Michael, which apparently stood on the same site as the present-day St Michael's church building. Back to context...