Fire, I’ll take you to burn (2)

You may already have read some of the extracts I have featured from”The Date-Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood 1750-1879″, by John Frost Sutton. I have already found one description of what would nowadays be called a million pound fire, and it’s not the only one:

August 22nd 1874

“About half-past two in the morning the night watchman employed at the hosiery factory of Messrs I & R Morley in Manvers-street, while passing through the factory yard, saw some smoke but no flames issuing from a room in the centre of a block immediately over the cellar used to store cotton. He at once gave the alarm, which soon brought a body of willing hands together, and the hose reel belonging to the factory was immediately put in operation.”

“To the surprise of all present, though, there was scarcely any water in the cistern which was kept on the premises to be ready in case of fire. In the meantime several messengers had gone for the fire engines, and about fifteen minutes to three in the morning a body of men set out with the hose reels, followed immediately by the steam fire engine, the manual engines being sent afterwards in quick succession”.

Here is a steam fire engine:

srteammm fir e engoine

And here is the thrilling scene I found, of another very similar steam fire engine, rushing to the fire. Notice the Spotty Dog who is playing the part of a SatNav system:

steam fire emng0ne

Here come the more genteel firefighters of the Victorian age:

1870more countrified

Time for a quick photograph and then we’ll start sorting out that fire for you:


Back to Nottingham:

“By this time though, the flames had really taken hold of the middle of the building where they had originated, and passing along the south side had become totally unmanageable.”

This is Manvers Street, on the north bank of the River Trent, where the road leaves Nottingham for Southwell. Notice the orange arrow which points to Manvers Street itself, and to the east, the packed terraced streets of Sneinton which provide the labour for the factory. To the west is the railway system used to take the finished product to its destination:

manvers street

“At about 3.15am, a large portion of the walls and floors collapsed. About four o’clock the whole of the remaining walls, and the roof of the Manvers-street part of the factory came down as well . Some idea of the crash may be formed, when it is stated that the noise was heard as far away as Radford and the surrounding villages. The sight of the ruins when viewed from the Southwell-road end of Manvers-street was almost beyond description.”

I think that this is Morleys’ factory, presumably rebuilt after the fire:


Back to the story:

“Of the front of the factory, 200 yards long, nothing remained but an immense mass of bricks, iron, and wood, intermingled with the burnt remnants of hosiery goods. This was by far the greatest fire that has occurred in Nottingham in the memory of man, not excepting the Castle, the damage being estimated at £100,000.”

And, in terms of value, the damage nowadays would have been in the region of  £51,600,000.


Filed under History, Nottingham

16 responses to “Fire, I’ll take you to burn (2)

  1. That is one expensive fire! I have just read that Concomitant with the steam pump fire engine and horses, would be Dalmatian dogs, which were used to calm the horses. Thanks for a fascinating post John.

    • Thank you very much for that interesting fact about Dalmatian dogs .I knew that they were used in Dalmatia, present day Croatia (I think), to follow coaches and protect them from bandits. That is why you should never buy one as a pet, because they expect a fifty mile run every day!

  2. Fascinating research results, especially the pictorial part.

  3. That really is a lot of money! Absolutely fascinating to read!

    • Thanks very much. We tend to think that the VIctorian era was just like ours, but in truth, it was very, very different. An article in the Daily Express gives a lot of detail about servants amongst which was “Passing her mistress on the stairs a servant was expected to “give room”, which meant face the wall.” and “The upper classes dined on nine-course meals costing up to six times a maid’s annual wage.” And people nowadays complain about good old Mike Ashley !

      • Indeed John. The gap between the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ certainly was incredible. Servants were in many cases, no more than paid slaves and treated like it. Just like a sports direct employee!

  4. With seeing their equipment, it makes one wonder how they ever put out any fires. lol

  5. atcDave

    I love those old fire engines! Fire seems to have been a significant threat until fairly recently. Not that it isn’t now! Its just hard to imagine a modern city loosing more than a few buildings at a time.

    • Here in England the statistics say that fires are becoming increasingly rare. The majority used to be caused by discarded cigarettes and only a tiny number of people smoke nowadays. Another major cause was people coming home from the pub and then trying to cook some food, but falling asleep in their armchair. Nowadays, it can be quite dangerous to be out late at night and alcohol is a fraction of the cost in supermarkets so people stay at home. Firemen therefore tend mostly to attend car crashes of which we still have many on our crowded roads. The government want to cut the numbers of firemen but that is politically a very difficult task.

      • atcDave

        Interesting. No doubt, when firemen are needed they are NEEDED. I don’t think I’d want to see those numbers reduced either.

  6. A little burn and we suffer so much pain, it is difficult to imagine the pain of the people caught in such fires. Thank you for sharing. Regards

    • Thank you for dropping by. You are absolutely right. The pain of fire must be dreadful and that is why it is so difficult to reduce the number of fire fighters even if fires are relatively rare nowadays. As atcDave said above, when firemen are needed, they are NEEDED!

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