The photograph featured this week was presented to me recently with a question, what was the date of a terrible fire that happened at Sixpenny Handley?

After a little digging in the Salisbury Times archives, it appears that this disastrous fire happened on May 21, 1892, destroying most of the properties in the village – it rendered 186 people homeless. It all started so unexpectedly.

Some men were engaged in wheel binding in the yard of Mr Adams, the wheelwright, whose premises lay between the church and the school. A spark flew from one of the wheels on to the thatch of an adjoining workshop, which being very dry owing to the continued drought, was soon ablaze.

There was no nearby stream to get water, two ponds had dried up and the only water available was that which could be drawn from household wells. The result was disastrous and as a writer for the Salisbury Times said at the time, the village was destroyed before the villagers’ very eyes and they could do nothing about it.

In Salisbury, collections were made of behalf of the sufferers at Sunday church services which included Fisherton Church - £14. 8s; St Edmund’s, over £7.00; St Martin’s £3.17s.5d; St Thomas’, over £7.00; St Osmund’s £2.10s and a collection was later made at Salisbury Cathedral.

In London the Financial Secretary to the War Office was asked whether, under the exceptional circumstances, he would allow a number of tents to be sent to Sixpenny Handley to accommodate the people rendered homeless by the fire. The military authorities replied that they were willing to afford any facilities in their power to house the unfortunate victims.

By September, 1892, the Handley Relief Fund had reached £2,200 and no time was lost in constructing over 25 new houses.