From the Archives



A flash of lightning, when the storm was at its worst, just after two o'clock, struck the roof of the old mill house at Stratford-sub-Castle and set it alight. Within a minute or two the whole roof was blazing furiously, notwithstanding the fact that it was a slate roof.

Many years ago the premises, which are the property of the Ecclesiastical Commission, were used as a flour mill, but for a long time they have been let as part of the farm occupied by Mr F Carey. Recently it has been used as a gristmill and a chaff house, and contained an under- shot water wheel, driving two pairs of stones, and a complete milling plant, as well as a large chaff cutter.

At the end of the building there was a cottage occupied by a man named William Tryhorn, his mother, wife and daughter. He looked after the mill, and sometimes was employed on the farm. On Friday he was away from the house, so that the women were the only persons about the premises when the mill was struck. No one seems to have seen the lightning strike the roof, but, hearing a crash, the occupants of the cottage rushed out only to find the place in flames. The fire spread wonderfully. Within a few minutes parts of the interior were blazing, though at first, not near the cottage.

The alarm was given, and a messenger on horseback was dispatched to Salisbury for the Fire Brigade, while a number of people living near by including the vicar (the Rev. A. S. Carr) did what they could to save the furniture in the cottage, unfortunately not insured. In this they were partly successful. At any rate before the Fire Brigade with the steamer and manual arrived, all the furniture in the rooms had been removed, but upstairs a good deal was left beside some money and jewellery.

The Brigade was called about three o'clock when Captain Fawcett and his men arrived on the scene. Ladders were put up to the cottage window and some of the things were rescued before the flames, increasing in strength every moment, drove the men out. Then the water was brought to bear. There was an abundant supply but the flames were very fierce and resisted every effort for a long time. The whole place was doomed. The roof of the mill had gone in before the Brigade arrived, and the cottage did not last long. The one thing to be done was to get the flames under, and it took several hours to do that sufficiently to allow the fireman to revisit the bedroom. There a search was made and many boxes, some furniture and valuables found uninjured. But a great deal had been damaged beyond repair.

Much sympathy is felt for the evicted folk who have lost most of their property. They took refuge from the rain with their goods in a shed opposite the mill and Miss Waters and Miss Carey did what they could to help them.

Happily there was no danger of the fire spreading, for the only house near was the residence of Mr Russell Davis, which was never in danger. The fire brigade left about seven o'clock having put out a rather stubborn blaze. Mr Carey's loss, estimated between £200 and £300, is covered by insurance. The place was visited by a large number from Salisbury on Saturday and Sunday.

From The Salisbury and Wilton Times and South Wilts Gazette, Friday August 3, 1900†


Francis Carey was 56 and from Coleshill Berkshire and had been married for 31 years. He did not appear in the 1901 census but in 1911 lived with his wife, two daughters, two servants and a farming pupil as a farmer in the village. The Miss Carey was probably Alice or Bertha, daughters. William Tryhorn was age 60 and from Laverstock. He was listed as a journeyman miller in the 1901 census, living with his wife Ellen, daughter, also Ellen and mother Louisa. He and his widowed daughter still lived in the village at the 1911 census. Arthur Bruce Russell Davies, 35 from Blackheath, Kent, was a man of independent means living at Avon Side with two servants (1901 census). The mill was sold by the church twenty-one years after the fire to Reginald Coggan and carried on in use as a mill for a further twelve years after that. ††

Kerry O’Connor

Local History Group 

December 2021

† Accessed via the British Newspaper Archive, © The British Library Board

†† 'Stratford-sub-Castle', in A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6, ed. Elizabeth Crittall (London, 1962), pp. 199-213. British History Online [accessed 13 December 2021].