THE Great Fire of Darlington is mentioned in the almanac of John Vaux, a noted cleric and astrologer of St Helen Auckland, so it must be true.

John was born at Great Burdon, on the edge of Haughton-le-Skerne, in about 1575 and so would have been 10 when the blaze struck.

In 1616, he became curate at St Helen Auckland, and he developed an interesting sideline in studying the stars to see into the future. Every year, he published an almanac which contained the positions of various celestial objects in the forthcoming 12 months, horoscopes and a calendar of the biggest dates from the past.

John sold his almanac for 2d from the communion table in his church.

Old Moore’s Almanac started in 1764, so even older John was a century ahead of the game.

John also dabbled in predicting the results of local horseraces, and for 12d he would consult the stars and tell you where you might find your lost horse, and for five shillings he would give you an idea of who had stolen your corn.

Even the bishop complained about John’s supernatural magic, but he said he was merely channelling God’s almighty intelligence.

In 1633, he was hauled before the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Durham who particularly disliked his practice of selling his almanac in the church. He was banned from practising as a cleric for three years and imprisoned.

However, within two years he was back as curate at St Helen’s church, and copies of his almanac were still published every year. John Vaux’s Almanac was even published for decades after his death in 1651 (he was buried in his church), and for him, the biggest event in world history to have ever happened on May 7 was the one he had witnessed as a 10-year-old: the Great Fire of Darlington.