On the night of Tuesday, the 10th December, 1583, most of Nantwich was destroyed by a fire. According to local historian James Hall the outbreak originated “through negligence of un discreet persons brewing”! The fire started on Water Lode, at the home of Nycolas Browne. He was probably making small beer ( a weak beer that would have been safer to drink than water at that time) when the fire that was heating the water set fire to the (wooden) walls of the house, and the fire rapidly spread.
600 bays of buildings were lost in the fire, including seven inns. These were:
- The Ship, wherein dwelled one Seckerston
- The Cocke – Jon Walker, (William Bromleys is the landlord or owner
- The Bell – Richard Wryghte
- The Crowne – Robert Crockett
- The Harts – Maynwaring
- The Swanne Richard Gryffyn (Jo Wydenburyes is the landlord
- The Beyr (Bear) – Jon Seckerston
Hall goes to tell us that Jon Seckerston had in his stable 4 great bears (which would have been used for bear baiting – to bring in the customers). As the fire started the owner of the Bear Inn released his bears (as they would have been valuable). This inadvertently helped to prevent the fire being put out, as there would then be frightened and angry bears on the street. Hall tells us “whereoff the women were so afraid they durst not carry water unless they were accompanied with men having weapons to defend them from the same bears”.
The Crown was the most important of the 7 inns, and rebuilding it was the largest expense (£314 3s 4d) of rebuilding the town.
Besides the inns, which would also offer food and lodging, there were also beer houses. In 1582 William Harrye and Robert Lea are recorded as being unlicensed ale sellers in Nantwich.