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Article taken from The Rushden Echo 3rd July 1925 transcribed by Gill Hollis

Disastrous fire at Rushden
Bank premises badly damaged

Rushden Firemen's plucky work

Fighting flames and smoke in gas masks

  A destructive fire played havoc with the rear-facing rooms of the Rushden Branch of the National Provincial Bank on Sunday evening, and incidentally the Rushden Fire Brigade in the space of minutes did their smartest and most effective work for probably many years past.  No fire could be less accountable in origin, because Mr. F. L. Heygate (manager) and Mrs. Heygate were out of town, as were Miss Joan Heygate and her friend, Mr. Arthur Knight.  Further, the servants had not returned to their duties which they had left some weeks previously owing to the residence having been disused during renovation.  The whole premises had been very extensively improved and re-decorated, the family being back again and the servants expecting to return to their duties the next (Monday) morning.

  By the greatest good fortune Mr. Knight and Miss Heygate went back to the bank to fetch a coat and they got there about 7.30 p.m.  Almost at the same time Mr. W. Neville, tobacconist, saw smoke coming from a high window.  Mr. Knight having found that the fire was in the bank residence gave the alarm at the Rushden Fire Station.  Mr. Neville also going for the Brigade.  Second Officer W. Packwood, with Fireman Tear, at once drove the tender down.  Steam pressure for the water was unnecessary as a supply was obtained direct from the ten-inch main in High-street, giving enough force to deluge the whole building.

  The new gas masks recently purchased as necessary equipment for the Brigade were brought into use for the first time and were an invaluable aid in fighting the enemy.  The building, one of the highest in Rushden and district, shows no signs in front, from High-street, of any damage other than from the water, but at the back, from the first floor to the top is little but charred woodwork and


  It was a race between the firemen and the fire, and more than three firemen could not work on the actual extinguishing at the same time.  From the start of the fire (above the ground floor) it had worked spirally upwards, following the staircase, and spreading outwards to each side into the bedrooms, but all the time clear of the business premises and of the front generally.  It was in the same order that the Brigade had to deal with it.  The keenest and smartest Fire Brigade could not have done the work more effectively and in less time.  The great volume of water supplied at terrific pressure was directed on to all the burning material in the first floor, and then the firemen, driving water before them on the flaming stairs and rail, dragged the hose to the second floor and soon drenched that in water, repeating the process until that floor was safe, and then, with the race having been so far with the fire in the ascendant in two literal senses, Second Officer Packwood’s fears were that the fire, raging as it was, would eat through the roof before its progress could be stopped.  But in spite of the scorching heat the firemen fought their way to the fourth storey, where they were finally successful in preventing the flames getting outside the building.

  The unsparing use of water on floor after floor meant that some of the rooms were practically “water-logged” with a flood several inches deep.  As this went down, the first floor was taking a great weight of water which could not get away.  A short “cut” was made by using the axe on the boards through which water was running and bearing down on the ceiling below, the hole letting the floods down into the public department of the bank from where it had an easy flow to the street.

  It is a deplorable feature that the very beautiful balustrade was ruined as were the charming wall decorations all recently new or renovated.  There were practically


Clothing, beds, furniture in the rooms, were either completely consumed or charred and in ruins.  Mr. R. Heygate happened to have with him out of town in his car a suit of flannels besides apparel he was wearing.  Otherwise his complete wardrobe was totally destroyed.

  Police Inspector Baxter, P.S. Lawrence and Constables rendered very great assistance in diverting ‘buses and other traffic round by Alfred-street, to keep the High-street free to the Rushden Fire Brigade.  Crowds which collected near the scene did not leave until an hour or two later, although there was nothing of the fire visible from High-street.  Several firemen remained on duty until about 4 a.m. on Monday in case of further out-breaks from the intense heat which lasted several hours after the fire.  Captain R. F. Knight  had been out of town all day.  On his return he quickly attended the fire.

  An estimate of the cost of once more restoring the bank premises cannot be given very accurately but it may easily be over £1,000.  It passes without saying that the building was insured against damage by fire.

  Rushden residents owe a big debt of gratitude to the smart brigade for the magnificent work they did in saving the premises, because had the fire spread beyond the bank, some of the most important buildings, dwellings and tradespeople’s shops, would have been involved.  It necessitated a deal of pluck and endurance on the part of the firemen to work in a stifling heat of almost unbearable intensity.  There was also no little personal risk to the firemen who were in at the heart of the operations.

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