The Great Fire of Stony Stratford in 1742 destroyed St Mary Magdalene church. Only its medieval tower remains today (pictured left) - thanks to the efforts of a historian at the time called Browne Willis. He saved the tower from demolition by organising a collection for its repair. Some say he did it because of the old legend claiming "if the church tower falls there'll be no more fairs in Stony Stratford".

The fire not only destroyed the church but 146 houses nearby. Fires spread quickly in those days because of thatched roofs.

Legend has it that the fire was started accidentally by a maid at the Bull Inn who was drying sheets in front of the open fire. One of them got scorched and when she heard the Mistress coming she shoved it up the chimney, sparking The Great Fire. Today you can still see the black stains the fire left on the upper windows of the church tower, which is situated to the North East side of the High Street.

The Great Fire meant St Giles church became the sole church for Stony Stratford until 1868 when St Mary the Virgin was built in London Road.