Historic Ryde Society

‘Giving Ryde’s Past to the Future’

Historic Ryde Society Quiz Night Thursday 28 September 2023 at Yelf's Hotel, at 7p.m. for 7.30pm.

Mercury Office Fire

Isle of Wight Observer March 13, 1858

Firefighting in 19th century Ryde

THE MERCURY OFFICE FIRE – While the men employed on the Mercury were gone to dinner on Thursday, a fire broke out in the office in Cross-street. The cause of the disaster was the old one: the stove ignited the building, and the fire speedily reached the roof, and would soon have completely destroyed the whole building and stock-in-trade had not the fire brigade been in attendance very promptly. By the means of a hose affixed to a fire-plug close by the fire was soon got under, but not until considerable damage was done, especially to the type in the cases, as well as “pieing” the matter set up for the journal. Judging from what we casually observed, we should hardly imagine that it will be possible for the paper to be issued this week. We do not know whether the building or stock is insured, but the damage from fire alone is not very heavy; it is the breaking of the matter, and the confusion thereby, that will be the most felt.

Brookfield Fire

Isle of Wight Observer July 16 1859

On, Sunday, about 1.20 pm, a horse was furiously ridden to the police station and engine house, and the messenger announced that there was a fire at Brookfield. In the short space of 20 minutes, such is the efficiency of the fire brigade, and the readiness of the inhabitants to assist, the engine was on the spot in full working, notwithstanding that the water had to be fetched from a pond in the field aout 200 feet distant. On arriving on the spot immediately the fire was made known, we found that the fire was confined to the coach-house and stables, the greater part of the roof and loft floor of which was in flames. The firemen, however, soon commenced operations, and at 3.45 the fire was entirely subdued. Fortunately the horses, carriages, and a great part of the harness were saved, and the damage to the building is not great. The stablemen, whose rooms were over the coach-house, suffered the greatest loss, as all their clothes were destroyed. Amongst the debris  we observed two patent “Fire Annihilators”, which, as usual, either for the want of knowledge of how to use them, or other causes, were of no service whatsoever. One thing should be mentioned, and that is, for the want of a sufficient length of hose (or rather because the hose of one engine will not fit that of the other, and thus cannot be made available) a vast amount of extra heavy-labour was required to get the water from the pond to the engine, instead of the engine being close to the pond. To all who assisted, the greatest credit is due, and perhaps we may, without being invidious, particularly name Capt. and Miss Brigstocke, who worked hard in getting the water and directing operations, and their conduct was in strong contrast to that of a lot of buckram tradesmen who stood by without offering to lend the slightest help whatever. Were either of their premises on fire, would they like to be treated so? Of course, such labour is purely voluntary, but we think they would have shewn better taste, if they were too lazy to lend a helping hand, if they had walked off from the scene of destruction. The police also rendered most efficient aid, the whole, with the exception of one, being on the spot.

Fire in George Street

Isle of Wight Observer September 15 1860

A fire – the origin of which is involved in stupidity – broke out on the premises of Mrs Read, George-street, on Monday night, and was near upon ending disastrously. It would be folly to call this event “an accident”, as it was the result of a careless fellow, lacking a watchful mother by his side, who had taken a book to read in bed, and after some time fell asleep, and, as a matter of course, the candle fell over and set fire to the bed and clothes. Now, if this individual had been merely roasted for his trouble, and the evil ended there, it would have mattered but little; it is endangering a neighbourhood, and the risk of burning innocent persons in their beds that is of consequence. As it was he woke merely frightened, and then committed the wise act of quitting the premises in a half nude state, and going to the Pier, where he met a Coastguard, who gave the alarm by firing off a pistol, nearly causing the hearts of some of the Volunteer Rifles, who heard it, to bound out of their breasts. Assistance being obtained, they proceeded to the fire, where discretion and promptitude soon put the fire out. Considerable damage, however, was done; the bed and bedding, the window blinds, a chest of drawers, and other furniture were burnt, and the scurtain (sic) board was also ignited, so that a most suffocating atmosphere filled the room. Notwithstanding this, thanks to the energy of Mr Bloxam (who resided next door to the house on fire) and to Messrs Barnes, Kendall, Boyce and others, the conflagration was put out before the arrival of the engine, which had been sent for as a wise precautionary measure, and which was quickly in attendance. We hope this fellow in future will have a staid careful woman to attend him to counteract his childish conduct, and prevent him placing the lives and property of others, in jeopardy again.

Robert Bloxam was a surgeon, who lived with his family and several servants in Denbigh House – now a dental clinic, near to the junction with Cross Street. At the time of the 1861 census, the house next door was a lodging house, run by a widow, Mrs Mary A Read. Denbigh House – with, presumably, Mrs Read’s house beyond – can be seen on the extreme right of the image below.

The Fire Brigade

Isle of Wight Observer January 9 1864

This brigade has been entirely remodelled, according to a resolution of the Board of Commissioners, and went out for a grand field day on Monday last, under their new superintendent, Mr John Langdon. Some new blood has been infused into the company, which we hope will be for the public advantage. The town crier has been appointed conductor of the fire escape. In addition to the escape, a jumping sheet has been procured, to enale persons, in case of emergency, to jump from windows or elsewhere. A little practice will, it seems, probably get the men into a high state of efficiency – a most desirable consummation for a growing town like Ryde.