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The Rushden Echo – Special Edition Monday March 12th 1900, extracted by Gill Hollis
Fire at Mr J Buckle's & Mr S Powell's

DAMAGE £4000

  One of the most serious fires which has ever broken out in Rushden occurred early this (Monday) morning on premises occupied by Mr. J. G. Buckle, clothier and outfitter, and Mr. S. Powell, photographic artist.  The premises are situated in High-street near the Midland Station.

  The owner of the property is Mrs. Warner, of Ivy House, Wappenham, Towcester, and the three shops are leased by Mr. Powell who occupies one of the shops.  The other two shops are let by Mr. Powell to Mr. Buckle.  Mr. Powell occupied the whole of the premises above the shops as his residence.

  It appears that P.c. Wallis and P.c. Bridle were at 11.20 on Sunday night near the Midland railway bridge and High-street when they saw flames break out of Mr. Buckle’s shop.  They at once ran up to the place, and P.c. Wallis broke open the door and called Mr. Powell, while P.c. Bridle ran to the Parish Church and rang the fire bell, and afterwards called the members of the Rushden Fire Brigade.

  Shortly afterwards P.s. Birrill and P.c. Riseley appeared on the scene of the conflagration and they at once set  to work removing stock from the shops into Mr. Perkins’s yard.  It was not long before P.c. Searle and P.c. Swan were also in evidence.  By this time a great crowd of people has assembled and with the assistance of the onlookers a considerable quantity of goods were removed into safety.

  Meanwhile the fire spread with startling rapidity, there being a great deal of inflammable material, and the flames attained an enormous height.  The heat was so great that the windows at Messrs. Phipps’ store on the opposite side of the street were cracked.

  The fire brigade did excellent work.  The firemen present were – Engineer J. T. Colson, Fireman C. E. Bayes, Fireman Burgess, Fireman Seckington, and Secretary G. R. Turner, together with Ex-Fireman Harry Knight, and Ex-Fireman H. Staniland.

  They brought the hose cart and at once connected with two standpipes.  After a brief delay a splendid supply of water was obtained, about a dozen lengths of hose being called into requisition.

  It was found to be impossible to save the premises of Mr. Buckle.  At one time it appeared as if the whole of the imposing block of buildings would be gutted.  Fortunately, however, the exertions of the firemen were successful in limiting the flames to the shops of Mr. Buckle and the residence of Mr. Powell.

  It is supposed that the fire originated in Mr. Buckle’s cutting room, but at the time of writing it was not possible to state the cause of the outbreak.  Before very long the whole of the premises were gutted.

  Some exciting scenes were witnessed, and the occupants of the premises had to leave partially dressed.  When the flames reached the chemicals on Mr. Powell’s premises a terrible explosion occurred, though fortunately no-one was injured.

  The occupants of the neighbouring premises removed their valuables, but happily the flames were subdued by the exertions of the brigade, to whom the greatest credit is due for their promptitude and indefatigable zeal.

  Mr. Buckle was to have been married tomorrow (Tuesday), and the greatest sympathy is felt for him is the sad misfortune which has befallen him.

  A good deal of excitement occurred when the roof of the building fell through, and several of the women screamed out that one of the firemen had fallen with flaming mass. Luckily this was found to be a false alarm, and it is satisfactory to note that not a single accident occurred during the whole time.

  The arrangements made by the police, under the capable direction of P.s. Birrill, to keep order and ensure freedom of movement for the firemen, were all that could be desired.

  The watches and clocks from Mr. Fisher’s shop which adjoins Mr. Powell’s were removed to a place of safety, and a large number of valuable sewing machines from the depot of Singers’ Company were placed out of danger.

  There is no doubt that but for the commendable promptitude of P.c. Wallis, coupled with P.c. Bridle, a conflagration would have ensued appalling in its magnitude.

  Mr. and Mrs. Powell were kindly accommodated for the night at Mr. W. D. Knight’s, while Mr. Buckle was similarly provided for at Mr. Perkin’s.

  By 2.30 a.m. all danger of a further outbreak had been averted and the crowd dispersed. Two of the firemen stayed on the spot all the night to be ready for any emergency.

  The damage is roughly estimated at £4,000.

  The trade books of Mr. Powell and Mr. Buckle are both safe. All the lenses which Mr. Powell used in his business were saved, but several valuable items which were in stock were destroyed. 

The scene after the fire
An old postcard shows the devastation
  Mr. Powell wishes to tender his great thanks to the police, the firemen, and all the friends who so kindly assisted. Fortunately his studio and rooms are not touched and the business will be continued as usual. All the negatives are safe, so that all the work will be finished.

  To the majority of people in Rushden the first intonation of the disastrous fire was when the boys were shouting, soon after 7 a.m., our first special edition.

  A second edition was called for and dispatched and we have decided to issue a third edition.

  Large numbers of people have been visiting the scene this morning.

  The buildings are insured.  Mr. Powell’s stock and furniture are also covered, but there seems to be some uncertainty about Mr. Buckle’s insurance.

  Mr. Buckle was in bed at the time of the outbreak, and the only means of escape was by climbing down the rain-water spout.

  Mr. Buckle’s books and valuables are in a safe, where probably there is also an insurance policy. The safe is now under the debris.

  Mr. Buckle threw out of the bedroom window a box containing amongst other things, about £7. The box was afterwards found in the backyard but the money was missing.


  At 3 a.m. a “Rushden Echo” representative had an interview with P.c. Wallis, who said :-

  “At 11-30 last (Sunday) night I tried the doors of Mr. Powell’s and Mr. Buckle’s establishments and at that time everything appeared to be all right.  I went on as far as the station bridge, and at about 11-40, on looking back, I noticed a light in the shops which I had previously passed.  I at once drew the attention of P.c. Bridle, who was with me, to the matter, and we both ran up to the spot.  Then I could see that there was something unusual in the shops, and, as the appearance indicated fire, I immediately burst open the door of the middle of the three shops.  Then I found that the whole of the shop was a mass of flame.  The first thing I did was to remove all the cloth I could get hold of, and when I found I could do no more I called up Mr. Powell and the other occupants of the premises.  I also despatched P.c. Bridle to the Church to ring the fire bell and to call the firemen.

 16th March, 1900



  While the majority of people in Rushden were soundly sleeping in the early hours of Monday morning a disastrous conflagration was raging, and before the flames were mastered three large shops in High-street were completely gutted and damage was done to the extent of over £3,000.  The fire was first discovered in one of two adjoining shops, occupied by Mr. J. G. Buckle, tailor and out-fitter, and speedily spread to the next door shop, in the occupation of Mr. S. Powell, photographer.  The vast majority of people in Rushden first heard of the disaster when, shortly after seven o’clock on Monday morning, the boys were shouting out in every part of the town a special edition of the “Rushden Echo” which had been promptly issued.  A second edition was soon called for and disposed, and the demand was so great that a third edition had to be printed.


  Mr. Buckle informed a representative of the “Rushden Echo” that he estimated the damage to his own stock at £900 or £1,000. “The only conclusion I can come to,” said Mr. Buckle to our reporter, “with regard to the cause of the outbreak is that the fire had gone down the chimney from the drawing room up above. The fire evidently originated in the cutting shop, somewhere about the fireplace. The damage is covered by insurance. I went to bed on Sunday night and was asleep. I have confused recollection of hearing somebody rushing about and doors slamming, and when I awoke the bedroom was full of smoke. I rushed downstairs with as many things on my arm as I could carry, and threw them on the pavement. Then I went back to save as much as I could, but the flames were to strong for me and I had to escape by the water spouting outside the room at the back of the premises. Then Mr. Roberson led me away, and lent me some clothes.”


  In an interview with one of our staff Mr. Powell said:

  “The first intimation I had of the fire was that Mrs. Powell could smell the smoke and she aroused me.  Almost simultaneously the policeman called us.  Mrs. Powell and I both got up and I aroused the household.  Then I answered the policeman’s call to let him know that every-body was safe.  I at once gave my attention to the back premises and tried my utmost to save the adjoining property.  I estimate the whole of the damage roughly at £3,000.  The damage to my own property is about £450 or £500, and it is covered by insurance.  There are several theories as to the cause of the fire.  The most satisfactory theory is this.  An old fire-grate in the room above the shop was replaced by a new one.  The old one was 12 inches above the floor and was well protected by a stone hearth.  The new one, however, was only three inches from the tiled hearth, and I can only imagine that the heat from the tiled hearth in time ignited the joist which runs close to it.  If this theory is correct, the strange part of it is that when we were in the room at 11 p.m. we noticed no smell of fire whatever.”


was  a youth named Frederick Bradford, aged 16, who is employed by Mr. James Bugby, fish merchant, High-street, Rushden.  Bradford lodges with Mr. Willmott, pork butcher, and has made the following statement to a “Rushden Echo” representative:-

  “I was waiting for Mr. Willmott on Sunday night, when I noticed that the blind in one of Mr. Buckle’s shop windows – the one nearest the railway station – was on fire.  The top part of the blind was in flames, which appeared to me to come along the ceiling from the other side of the shop.  Two policemen – Constables Wallis  and Bridle – came up, and I went with one of the policemen to get the keys of the parish church.  As we ran along towards the church we met one of the clergymen (Mr. Forrest) and he went with us.  The policeman and clergyman rang the fire bell, and I ran round to call up some of the firemen.  I went up Griffith-street shouting ‘Fire!’ as I was told to do.  I saw several of the firemen and gave them warning.  It was about 11.45 when I first saw the fire, and there were only three of us, so far as I could see, at that time – a policeman, a man who was shouting to Powell’s and Buckle’s to tell them to get up, and myself.  Soon afterwards quite a lot of people assembled.  The fire bell was ringing eight or ten minutes.  The policeman who saw the fire was a few yards in front of me.”


in the fire were 72,000 old red penny stamps unused, which Mr. Powell had been keeping with the intention of having a room papered by them. Mr. Powell also lost some other stamps of considerable value.


was heard at one time, and it was rumoured that the chemicals on Mr. Powell’s premises had caused an explosion.  This, however, was not the case, the cause of the noise being the falling of Mr. Powell’s piano from the room above Mr. Buckle’s shop.  The instrument fell upon Mr. Buckle’s safe and snapped in two with a loud report.


fanned by the wind yesterday, began to smoke a great deal, and it was found necessary to apply the hose.

  The whole of the property is covered by insurance.

  The trade books of Mr. Powell and Mr. Buckle are both safe.  All the lenses which Mr. Powell used in his business were saved, but several valuable ones which were in stock were destroyed.

  Mr. Buckle’s books and valuables are in a safe, where there is also an insurance policy.  The safe is now under the debris.

  Mr. Buckle threw out of the bedroom window a box containing among other things, about £7.  The box was afterwards found in the backyard but the money was missing except a few shillings which Mr. Powell afterwards found.


  Mr.Powell wishes to tender his great thanks to the police, the firemen, and all the friends who so kindly assisted.  Fortunately his studio and rooms are not touched, and the business will be continued as usual.  All the negatives are safe, so that all work will be finished as ordered.


  Mr. Buckle desires most sincerely to thank the firemen, the police, and all those who so kindly assisted him on the occasion of the recent fire.  He also wishes to thank the inhabitants of the town for their kind sympathy, so readily extended to him in the loss he has sustained.

An advert by Samuel Powell in the
Rushden Echo, 23rd March 1900

declaring that he is 'open as usual'
after the fire
and below it - one for
Harry Knight as agent for
Phoenix Fire Insurance!

1900 Advert

The Northampton Mercury, March 16th 1900, transcribed by Susan Manton

Disastrous Fire at Rushden - Three shops destroyed

One of the most extensive fires ever witnessed in Rushden took place at a late hour on Sunday night, and realised in the destruction of several large building premises in the main street near the Midland Station. The scene of the outbreak was the premises occupied by J. B. Buckle clothier and outfitter and Mr. Powell, photographer. The fire was discovered about half past eleven by P.C. Wallis and P.C. Brindle the aforesaid, having tried the door just previously and they saw that something was wrong. Mr. Powell was raised and the Fire Brigade warned. In a few minutes P.S. Barrett and P.C. Rising arrived on the scene and with the aid of P.C. Searle and P.C. Evans and a considerable number of persons who had assembled, a considerable part of the goods were removed to safety. The Fire Brigade, under Engineer J. T. Coburn, made a very prompt response to the call but by the time they had arrived the fire had got a firm hold of the combustible materials which the shops contained that it was practically impossible to save the premises. But notwithstanding the difficulties the Fire Brigade worked with great determination. Two standpipes were got to work and they saturated the flames with a will. At one time it seemed that the whole block of five buildings would be destroyed, and it is only through the magnificent work of the brigade that any were saved and the fire limited to the shops of Mr. Buckle and Mr. Powell. When the flames reached Mr. Powell’s chemical … a terrible explosion took place but fortunately no one was hurt. It was not until 2.30am on Monday morning that all danger of a further spread was over and the crowd who had assembled all the night through began to disperse. It is estimated that the damage done is at least £1901. The property belongs to Mrs.Warner of Wappenham, Towcester.

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