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“Fire From Heaven”

Dorchester in 17th Century

This Book was written by David Underdown in 1992 and the latest edition was published by Pimlico in 2003- at the time of writing it is still in print. 

The following book review can be found on “The Dorset Page” under genealogy; books.  It is reproduced here as  the book provides valuable background to articles I am writing about Pilgrims that came from Fordington and Dorchester - Michael Russell OPC Fordington Feb 2008

The town is Dorchester; the time the beginning of the seventeenth century. Two hundred years before Hardy disguised it as Casterbridge, Dorchester was a typical English country town, of middling size and unremarkable achievements. But on 6 August 1613 much of it was destroyed in a great conflagration, which its inhabitants regarded as a 'fire from heaven', and which was the catalyst for the events described in this book.

Over the next twenty years, a time of increasing political and religious turmoil all over Europe, Dorchester became the most religiously radical town in the kingdom, deeply involved, emotionally, with the fortunes of the Protestants in the Thirty Years War, and horrified by the Stuart flirtation with Spain. It was, after all, barely a generation since the defeat of the Great Armada

David Underdown traces the way in which the tolerant, paternalist Elizabethan town oligarchy was quickly replaced by a group of men who had a vision of a godly community in which power was to be exercised according to religious commitment rather than wealth or rank. They succeeded, briefly, in making Dorchester a place that could boast systems of education and of assisting the sick and needy nearly three hundred years in advance of their time.  The town achieved the highest rate of charitable giving in the country. It had ties of blood as well as faith with many of those who sailed to establish similarly godly communities in New England.

But the author's gaze is never focused narrowly on the local: he skilfully sets the story of Dorchester in the context both of national events and of what was going on overseas. This parallel vision of the crisis that led to the English Civil War and of the incidence of the war itself opens fresh perspectives. The book's most remarkable achievement, however, is the re-creation, with an intimacy unique for an English community so distant from our own, of the lives of those who do not usually make it into the history books:

Matthew Chubb, the hub of the old order, and his friend Roger Pouncey, 'godfather to the unruly and unregenerate of the town', on the one hand, the great pastor John White and the diarist William Whiteway on the other. They stride, fully rounded characters, from one end of the book to the other. Even further down the social scale we glimpse the daily lives of the ordinary men and women of the town drinking and swearing, fornicating and repenting, triumphing over their neighbours or languishing in prison, striving to live up to the new ideals of their community or rejecting them with bitter anger and mocking laughter.

Above all, in its subtle exploration of human motives and aspirations, it shows again and again how nothing in history is simple, nothing is black and white. And it shows us, by the brilliant detail of its reconstruction, how much of the past we can recover when in the hands of a master historian.

The following list of people  has been extracted from the books index. To know more you need to buy the book.


Adyn, John Fooke, Robert Panchard, Josiah
Adyn, Margery Fooke, William Parkins, Eleanor
Adyn, Robert Foote, Robert Parkins, John
Adyn, William Ford, Joseph Parkins, Joseph
Allambridge, George Ford, Thomas Parkins, Julian
Allambridge, John Foxe, John Parsons, William
Allen, Alice Foy, Giles Pascowe, John
Allen, Edward Foy, Thomas Paty, Joseph
Anstey, Emmanuel Freke, John Paty, Richard
Anthony, William Freke, Sir Thomas Paty, William
Archbold, Edward Fry, Elias Pedwin, Joan
Archbold, William Fry, Mary Pedwin, John
Armstrong, Elizabeth Fryer, Sir Thomas Pedwin, Margaret
Arnold, Ralph Galpin, Bernard (the elder) Penny, Anthony
Arnold, William Galpin, Bernard (the younger) Penny, Henry
Ashe, Agnes Galpin, Eleanor Perkins, William
Ashley, Sir Francis Galpin, Hannah Perrin, Ralph
Atkins, Richard Galpin, John Perry, Humphrey
Aubrey, John Galton, Thomas Phillips, Hugh
Auden, Margaret Gape, John Philpot, Thomas
Baily, Clement Gardner, Emma Pinney, John
Baily, Susannah Garret, Giles Pitt, Richard
Baker, (chandler) Gauntlett, Morris Pitt, William
Baker, Hugh Gawler, Em Poole, Thomas
Bale, Gifford Gaylard, John Porter, Joan
Ball, John George, Robert Porter, Nicholas
Bampfield, Francis Gerard, Thomas Pouncey, Grace
Bancroft, Richard Gifford, Hannah Pouncey, Henry
Bankes, Mary Gifford, Robert Pouncey, John
Bankes, Sir John Gill, Thomas Pouncey, Lawrence
Barber, John Gillett, Robert Pouncey, Margaret
Barfoot, Mathew Glover, Henry Pouncey, Mary
Barker, Richard Gollop, Henry Pouncey, Robert(c.1697)
Barnes, Anthony Gollop, Maximillian Pouncey, Robert
Barter, Margaret Gollop, Thomas Pouncey, Roger (the elder)
Barter, William Goodfellow, Katherine Pouncey, Roger (the younger)
Bartlett, George Goodfellow, Margery Pouncey, Thomas (c.1697)
Bartlett, Joan Goring, George Pouncey, Thomas (the elder)
Bascombe, Dorothy Gosling, Will Pouncey, Thomas (the younger)
Bastwick, John Gough, Richard Pouncey, William
Beale, Robert Gould, Christpher Pressley, Stephen
Bedford, Elizabeth Gould, James (the elder) Preston, John
Bedford, Stephen Gould, James (the younger) Purchase, Aquila
Benfield, (widow) Gould, Joan Purchase, Joseph
Benn, William Gould, John Purchase, Nicholas
Bennett, Matthew Gould, Katherine Purchase, Oliver
Benvenewe, Edmund Gould, Margery Purchase, Thomas
Bernard, Nathaniel Gould, Nicholas Pym, John Reade, Henry
Bernard, Richard Gower, Stanley Reason, Gilbert
Bestland, Henry Grant, Winter Reeve, Gabriel
Biles, Alexander Gray, Joseph Reyner, Samual
Biles, William Green, Hugh Richardson, Margaret
Bingham, Cicely (only person to die in the great fire an old woman - shoemakers wife) Greene, Henry Rideout, John
Bishop, Henry Grey, Angell Righton, Amy
Blachford, John Greybard, John Righton, Lawrence (the elder)
Blachford, Richard Grindham, Nathaniel Righton, Lawrence (the younger)
Blachford, Thomas Grindham, Thomas Robinson, (Widow)
Blake, James Guy, Joseph Rockwell, Joseph (p.136) [Note:- Link to his burial record]
Bond, Denis Haggard, Cassandra Rockwell, William
Bond, Elias Haggard, Hugh Rogers, Richard
Bond, Samuel Haggard, Jane Rolle, John
Bonger, John Haggard, Joan Rulizius, John Nicholas
Bonger, Matthew Haggard, Margaret Russell, John
Bower, Nathaniel Haggard, Mary Russell, Richard
Bradford, Honor Haggard, Matthew Ryall, John
Bradish, Dr. William Haggard, Walter Sampson, Robert
Bragg, Edward Hall, Robert Samways, Anne
Bragg, Matthew Hall, Thomas Samways, Jasper
Brewer, Jasper Hammond, George Saunders, Hester
Bridges, Henry (Contable) Hancock, Sarah Saunders, Thomas
Brine, Clement Hanham, William Savage, Mary
Brine, George Hardy, Thomas Savage, Richard
Brine, John Hardy, Thomas Savage, William
Browne, Melchisadek Hardy, William Scolvile, Richard
Browne, Ruth Harris, Elizabeth Scrope, Gervase
Browne, Sir John Harris, Samson Scrope, Sir Adrian
Buck, Roger Harrison.Jane Seward, John (the elder)
Buckler, Edmund Hasselbury, Simon Seward, John (the younger)
Buckler, Margaret Hasselbury, William Seward, Joseph
Budden, Alice Hastings, Henry Seward, Thomas
Bull, Albion Haydon, John Short, Robert
Bull, Elizabeth Haydon, Roger Shory, Richard
Burges, Cornelius Haydon, William Smith, Adam
Burges, John Hayne, Margery Smith, Anne
Burton, Henry Hellier, Nicholas Smith, Edmund
Bury, (Mrs) Henley, John Smith, Henry
Bury, Richard Hewett, Walter Smith, Mary
Bushrod, Henry Hill, Edward Snook, Robert
Bushrod, John Hill, John Sotherton, Nowell
Bushrod, Richard Hillard, George South, Thomas
Bushrod, Samuel Hillgrove, Thomasine Sparrow, Thomas
Butler, Anne Hobbes, Henry Spearing, Benjamin
Butler, Gabriel Hollard, Agnes Spearing, Goodman
Butler, Matthew Holles, Denzil Spicer, John
Butler, Richard Holles, Sir Francis Spring, Martin
Butler, William Holman, William Squibb, Thomas
Cake, Ralph Hooper, Bartholomew Stafford, Lawrence
Calvin, John Hooper, John Stagge, James
Camden, William Hooper, Thomas Standish, John
Cardrow, Robert Hopton, Sir Ralph Stansby, Philip
Carelton, Guy Horsey, Sir George Stibbs, John
Carelton, Sir Dudley Horsford, William Stillard, Rebecca
Cave, Joseph Hoskins, Elizabeth Stone, Nicholas
Cecil, Sir Edward Hoskins, Henry Strangways, SirJohn
Chaldecote, Anne Hoskins, John Streate, Edward
Chaldecote, Francis Hoskins, Leonard Strode, Lady
Channon, William Hoskins, Richard Strode, Sir Richard
Chapman, Edward Humphries, Michael Strode, William
Chapman, John Hunt, Richard Strong, Thomas
Chappell, Henry Huntley, George Stubbes, Philip
Cheeke, Margaret Hussey, William Swaffield, Joseph
Cheeke, Robert Hutton, Justice Sir Richard Swaffield, Matthew
Cheeke, William Hutton, Robert Swarfridge, Jonas
Chimney, John Hyatt, Thomas Swift, Thomas
Christmas, Richard Isack, Nicholas Symes, Henry
Chubb, John Jacob, Christian Symes, Nicholas
Chubb, Margaret Jacob, William Symes, William
Chubb, Matthew (the elder) Jefferies, Joan Symonds, (Constable)
Chubb, Matthew (the younger) Jefferies, Mary Symonds, John
Chubb, William Jefferies, Nicholas Symonds, William
Churchill, Francis Jenkins, Christopher Tanner, Thomas
Churchill, John Jenkins, Cicely Taylor, Joseph
Churchill, Joshua Jenkins, George Templeman, Abraham
Churchill, Richard Johnson, Christopher Terrin, John
Churchill, Thomas Johnson, Richard Terry, Josiah
Churchill, William (bookseller) Joliffe, Humphrey Terry, Margaret
Churchill, William (Sheriff) Joliffe, William Tewxbury, Edward
Clap, Roger Jones, William Tewxbury, Mary
Clarke, George Jonson, Ben Thompson, Hugh
Clarke, William Keate, Agnes Thompson, John
Clench, Thomas Keate, Katherine Thornhurst, Thomas
Cline, George Keate, Richard Toomes, Margaret
Cobb, John Kethe, William Torrington, John (p. 110,112,121) [Link to his marriage ]
Coish, Sarah Keysar, Peter Trask, Peter
Coke, Bishop George Kiddle, Robert Trayford, James
Coke, John King, John Trayte, Jane
Coker, Robert Kirton, Francis Treamor, James
Cole, George Knapton, Renaldo Trenchard, Sir George
Cole, John Knewstub, Nicholas Trenchard, Sir Thomas
Colliford, John Lake, Arthur Tucker, Christian
Colliford, Mary Lawrence, Christopher Turner, Roger
Colliford, Michael Lawrence, Robert Twisse, William
Colson, Jasper Le Neve, Geoffrey Underwood, Joseph
Conduit, John Leddoze, George Uphill, Christian
Constantine, William Lee, Susan Uphill, William
Cooke, Basil Leland, John Upsall, Nicholas
Cooke, Elizabeth Levitt, William Vawter, Nicholas
Cooke, Patroclus Lewes, Elizabeth Veale, Mary
Cooke, William Lilly, John Veale, Richard
Coombes, Anthony Limbury, Alice Wade, John
Cooper, Anthony Ashley Linnington, John Wade, William
Cooth, John Linnington, Richard Walbridge, Eleanor
Corbin, Hannah Lockyer, Philip Walbridge, Robert
Cornish, Rebecca Loder, Andrew Walbridge, Thomas
Counter, Alice Loder, Constable William Walden, Thomas
Counter, Hugh Loder, Gilbert Walker, Clement
Counter, John Loder, John Waller, Sir William
Cox, Nicholas Long, John Wallis, (Captain)
Cox, Richard Losse, Dr. Frederick Walpole, Sir Robert
Cox, William Lougher, Mr. Ward, Stephen
Crabb, Robert Lovelace, Mary Warman, Robert
Criummell, John Lovlace, William Watts, John
Cromelholme, Samuel Lucas, Thomas Watts, William
Croome, Sarah Lugge, Elizabeth Way, Benjamin
Croome, William Maber, Henry Way, Christopher
Croucher, Joan Mainwaring, Roger Way, George
Croucher, Thomas Martin, John Way, Robert
Cuffe, Joseph Martin, May Way, William
Cuffe, Robert Martin, William West, John
Damer.John Masterton, Elizabeth Whetstone, John
Daniell, John Mather, Richard Whiffen, Gilbert
Dare, Joseph Maudit, Joan White, George
Dashwood, Edmund Maunders, Katherine White, John
Dashwood, Edward Mellege, Matthias White, William
Dashwood, John Melmouth, William Whiteway, Eleanor
Daw, John Melville, Andrew Whiteway, John
Day, Nicholas Membury, George Whiteway, William (the elder)
Derby, Benjamin Merefield, Elizabeth Whiteway, William (the younger)
Derby, Joseph Merefield, Henry Whitlock, Ralph
Derby, Lawrence Merefield, John Whittle, John
Derby, Matthew Michell, Joseph Whittle, Joseph
Derby, William Michell, Margaret Whittle, Thomas
Devenish, Benjamin Miller, John Wier, Joan
Devenish, Hugh Miller, Leonard Wier, John
Devenish, Thomas Miller, Matthew Wier, Millicent
Dowle, William Miller, William Wier, Walter
Dowrage, Jane Mitchell, Margaret Williams, Daubeny
Dowrage, John Moore, Lazarus Williams, John (b1480)
Dowrage, Mary Moreton, Sir George Williams, John (c1479)
Dry, William Morey, Giles Williams, John of Fryer Mayne
Dury, John Motier, Robert Williams, Major John
Dyer, George Munden, William Williams, Richard
Edmonds, Christopher Napper, Sir Nathaniel Williams, Robert
Edwards, Henry Napper, Sir Richard Williams, Sir John
Edwards, John Nichols, Philip Willoughby, Elizabeth
Edwards, Julian Norrington, John Wills, Peter
Edwards, Mary Norris, Thomas Wilson, John
Eliot, Philip North, Matthew Wilson, William
Eliot, Sir John Northbrooke, John Wine, Richard
English, John Norton, John Wither, Anthony
Everard, Richard Notting, Methuselah Wood, Christopher
Eyres, Joseph Notting, Rebecca Wood, Mary
Facy, John Oaten, George Woodcock, Henry
Feaver, Urith Paine, Charity Woodman, William
Fitzjames, Robert Paine, Honor Wythiman, Ann Yeate, John
Follett, Henry Palfrey, James Yeomans, Joyce
Fooke, Andrew Palfrey, Jonas Yokeney, James
Fooke, Michael Palmer, Ralph  

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