Police and fire brigade save the bacon - disaster averted when alarming fire breaks out in Hertford

Hertfordshire Mercury, 15th September 1900


An alarming fire broke out on Tuesday 12 September 1900 on the back premises of Messrs  Westrope and Sons, Greengrocers of Market Place, Hertford.  These are part of a labyrinth of wooden buildings at the back of Maidenhead Street.  The fire originated in Messrs. Westrope’s bacon stove, in the centre of the back part of premises fronting onto Market Place, Honey Lane and Fore Street.

The fire was discovered by a lad called Tottenham, who went to look after the bacon-stove fire at 10.30 in the morning, by which time the roof was alight and beyond extinguishment with buckets of water.  The Fire Brigade was called by the sounding of the electric bells from the police station at 10:40.  Supt Shore, Insp Spriggs, Sergt. Perry and several Constables quickly attended and within five minutes Supt Pamphilon and a corporation employee were on the scene with the hose reel.  They were soon followed by Lieut. Wickham and other members of the Fire Brigade.

Owners of adjoining premises soon became alarmed at the risk to their property as the fire spread to the rear of Mr F Hartwell, butcher, where there was a quantity of hay ; Messrs Cooper and Sons who had a quantity of gunpowder and oil in their shop and warehouse; and to the Rose and Crown PH.  The Fire Brigade steamer was brought to the scene, but there was a considerable delay before it could be made to work.  About 1,000ft of hose was used, with water sprayed onto the roofs.

After about an hour the fire was in hand and was practically out by 11.45.  Given all of the flammable material in the area it was surprising how limited the extent of the fire was and this was testament to the perseverance and smartness of the firemen and their assistants, including the police.  It is believed the fire started due to overheating.  By good luck there was no breeze and the outbreak happened during daylight hours; otherwise the consequences could have been much worse.

Total losses and damage amounted to:

Westrope : nine sides of frazzled bacon; loss of a quantity of paper and paper bags; a quantity of sugar and other goods burnt or damaged.  Bacon stove, paper room above it and two store rooms gutted; nearby bedroom damaged by fire and water.  Total loss estimated at £600-£700.

Hartwell :  stable with loft over gutted and contents of hay and chaffcutter destroyed. (Two bullocks escaped without harm).

Cooper and Sons : slight damage to stores.

Rose and Crown : bedroom and kitchen below partly gutted

Connell : goods damaged by water


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