THE HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD - Online Book

The rise and progress of the town and the history of its institutions & people.

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64                         HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD.
only with rateable lands, and churches were then, as now, exempt from taxation.
On September 6th, 1683, the church was struck by lightning and set on fire. The following account of this catastrophe is from Mr. J. C. Stenning's "Notes on East Grinstead," the MS. having been furnished him by the late Mrs. Che vail Tooke :—
In the year 1683, on the 6th Sept., about half an hour after 6 p.m., Greensted steeple was set on fire by lightning, which began in the cross and then continued burning in the Shaft that went up to the Cross, but were two hours before it came to the shingles and yet could not by no means that was used be prevented from going farther. At length it took hold of the shingles and after an hour more made the steeple so hot, by reason of the falling of fire, that people could work there no longer. They then attempted to save the bells, but too late, for the fire fell so fast that none could stand to work. The fire which fell from above into the battlements fired the steeple at the lower side, which after a small space burnt with intolerable violence and in a short time burned down all the steeple, melted all the bells, burnt the bell lofts, stick and stake, all to the ground. But it was six of the clock the next morning before the lofts and all were burnt down, and yet notwithstanding this great fire and mighty heat in the belfry, by reason of the fire falling so fast, together with the melting of the bells, the Church, by God's mercy and the people's industry, was preserved untouched by the fire. But the mercy of God was yet more remarkable in the preservation of the town, for when the fire began the wind was high and in the east, which drove it over upon our back houses and barns very terribly. Although the fire was but small in comparison of what it was after, yet people were obliged to get upon the barns and back houses and defend them with wet sheets, quench the fire with water and beat it out with poles as it fell; and had the wind then continued our Town had certainly been burnt which many expecting pulled their goods out of their houses as fast as they could. But God in his infinite mercy had better things in store for us ; the wind turned immediately as by a miracle and blew the sparks quite from the Town the best way that could possibly be imagined, for which benefit God of his infinite mercy make us truly and heartily thankful. Amen. Amen.
Some of the bells destroyed by this conflagration had been purchased a few years before from Framfield Church, the tower of which fell in 1667.
On June 9th, 1684, the first stone was laid towards the re-building of the tower. It was a noble structure, upwards of 80 feet high, exclusive of the minarets, and 27^ feet square. But bad materials and faulty workman­ship seem to have been used, for it stood only a
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