Alarm of Fire

Isle of Wight Times February 12 1868

As most of our readers are no doubt aware there is no evening service in St Thomas’ Church, and on Sunday evening last, a few minutes after six o’clock, and just as people were thronging the streets on their way to the different churches and chapels throughout the town, an alarm was raised that St Thomas’ Church was on fire in the interior. It appears that at the time mentioned William Rashley, one of the vergers, entered the building for the purpose of fetching a prayer book belonging to Mrs Kirkpatrick, which had been left there in the morning. As soon as he opened the vestry door he found that the church was completely filled with smoke. He immediately closed the door again, and ran to Mr Buckett’s house for the purpose of raising the alarm and obtaining the assistance of Mr Langdon and the fire brigade, who were commissioned without loss of time. Buckett meanwhile entered the building along with Rashley, when they discovered that the floor of Mrs Bloxam’s pew, on the north-east corner of the building, and next to the pew belonging to the late Miss Player, was all in a blaze. They immediately got the fire buckets belonging to the church, and with some water they found in the vestry managed to keep the fire under until the arrival of Langdon with the hose reel. An abundant supply of water was then obtained from the pipes, and the fire was soon after entirely extinguished. It appears the building is usually heated by hot air pipes, and there can be no doubt that the wood work, although about six inches distant from the pipe, became at length so dry that the heat from the pipe ignited it. There had been service in the building during the afternoon, when the pipes were heated as usual. The fire must have been communicated to the wood work early in the day, and then continued to burn for some hours after the church had been closed. It was a most fortunate circumstance that the verger entered the building at the time he did, for in another half-hour the flames must have spread rapidly, and before it could have been observed from the outside, most probably it would have obtained such a hold upon the building, that all chance of checking it would have been lost. Although all danger seemed to be at an end shortly after the arrival of the fire brigade, they took the wise precaution of remaining in the church during the night, as it was not impossible that some hidden fire was yet smouldering underneath some portion of the floor.
St Thomas’ Church was erected in 1827, by George Player, Esq., the Lord of the Manor, and although it is not a very beautiful structure, being in fact a species of bastard gothic, devoid of much architectural elegance, many old residents of Ryde would have much regretted its destruction. Against the wall, close to the spot where this fire originated, is the marble tablet inscribed to Thomas Player, erected so far back as the year 1719.


On Saturday night, a wooden structure that stands in the piece of ground known as “Cutler’s Field”, and which has been in the possession of George James, chimney sweeper, who used it as a place for storing soot, was completely destroyed by fire, together with several bushels of soot. There is a small tool house adjoining, in which it is supposed the fire originated, and we regret to learn that there is strong reason for supposing some incendiary has been at work. The shed, which was constructed of wood, cost about £9; but the most serious loss is the soot, the value of which, for agricultural purposes, we have been given to understand was upwards of £20. Some tools and agricultural implements to the value of £5 or £6 have also been consumed. Mr Langdon, of the fire brigade, on hearing of the disaster, hastened to the spot, but he saw at a glance that nothing could be done to save even a portion of the property, as the whole was consumed in about three-quarters of an hour. The police have been making enquiry, but up to the present time they have obtained no clue as to who was the perpetrator of this most wanton and malicious injury to the property of a poor industrious working man.

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