The Great Fire of 1797

Since its founding in 1245 the city of Luegde has seen many town fires, for example in the years 1548, 1557, 1599, 1670, 1732 and 1790. The worst fire of these probably occurred in the year 1797. At this time as many as 2000 people inhabited the medieval town with 315 beautiful half-timbered houses, almost all of those were constructed as “Niedersächsisches Deelenhaus” (a half-timbered house typical of Lower-Saxony).

… and Luegde went up in flames.

On September 13th in 1797, nearly all the harvest was done and the crops lay in the attic or at least on the loaded carts, which stood on the barn-floor, as at around 10 o’clock the alarm bells rang. The house standing today at Hintere Str. 86 –the museum of local history- was blazing fiercely and since there was a strong southwester, the fire spread rapidly over the whole town and destroyed 243 houses in just a few hours (moreover, the houses were thatched with straw).

The old town hall built around 1550, schools, parts of the Augustiner-Convent, the rectory, brewery, workhouse and many more buildings fell victims to the flames. Even the upper part of the church tower caught fire and the bells melted in the tremendous heat.

Miraculously, nobody died and even most of the cattle, still standing on the pasture, was saved from the fire. But because of the rapid spread of the fire everyone could only save the most necessary, if at all anything from the burning houses. The whole harvest, only just reaped, was lost to the flames.
The now homeless, who almost all of them had to camp outside during the first nights after the fire, were accommodated in the remaining parts of the Augustiner-Convent or, for the time being, found shelter in houses which survived the fire.

Rebuilding – a Master’s stroke

They soon must have begun with the clearing work, which can be seen in the inscriptions from the end of 1797, and largely of 1798 and 1799. Within three to four years the inhabitants of Luegde have rebuild around 200 timbered farmers’ townhouses, which to a large part characterize the old town up to this day. These so called Vierständerhäuser, which is a byre-dwelling build on four load bearing pillars, are characterized by their gabled roof alongside hall, with a big entrance gate in the middle of the facade often being the dominating element in design of typical Lower Saxon architecture. Only few houses were ensured by the fire office in Paderborn. To finance the rebuilding many, mostly remote properties were sold.

On the other side, the Rebuilding had many positive aspects too. For example, the living culture in the houses changed dramatically. For instance, before the fire cattle was held in the front part of the house, whereas afterwards the cattle was moved to the rear part or a stable was built outside in the backyard. Those houses which had the dunghill in front now replaced them also in the backyard. For reasons of a better fire protection in the future many new crossroads were built. Last but not least, many streets were paved with cobble-stones later on.