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The Rushden Echo, 5th August, 1921, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Messrs. Jaques & Son’s Factory Gutted

Alarming Fire at Rushden - Fire Brigade’s Heroic Work

Adjoining Buildings Saved - Splendid Supply of Water Available
A Suggestion with Regard to the Fire Engine

  One of the most destructive fires witnessed for many years past in Rushden occurred on Saturday last on the premises of Messrs. Jaques & Son Ltd., boot and shoe manufacturers, Station-road.  The fire spread with amazing rapidity, and – an indication of the dryness and intense heat of everything in the factory in consequence of the great drought – the whole interior of the four walls was consumed or fell to the ground damaged in the space of thirty minutes. The firm, of which Mr. Harry Jaques, of Erskine House, is the principal, has been busy of late and were working on full time. Mr. Jaques is the son of Mr. James Jaques, of Bournemouth (principal of the Premier Boot Company, of Rushden), and nephew of Mr. John Clark (principal of the firm of Messrs. Jaques and Clark, boot and shoe manufacturers.

fire at the factory
Fire at Harry Jaques' viewed
from Carnegie Street
  Mr. C. Lawrence, who lives just above the factory, was apparently the first to notice smoke issuing from the top floor of the building, at about 11.15 a.m.  Several other people, including Mr. T. Smith, manager of the British United warehouse, saw it within a few moments.  Mr. Lawrence immediately ran to Messrs. Jaques and Clark’s factory on the opposite side of the road, and a telephone message was sent calling up the Rushden Fire Brigade.  Captain R. F. Knight was on holiday.  The whole of the members in town were on the scene with the hose cart in a commendably short time, and, under the direction of Second Officer W. Packwood (with assistance from Hon Capt. F. Knight, J.P., and Hon. Sec. Officer G. R. Turner), the Brigade did extraordinarily good work in saving the residence of Mr. G. W. Coles, J.P., which house is separated from the factory by only a narrow cart road.  Working at close quarters from the Station-road side, directing a good jet of water, members of the Brigade suffered not a little from the fierce heat, and were in danger from falling bricks and the leaning front wall.  P. C. Pywell was the first police officer on the scene, and P. S. Lawrence, P. S. Edgar, and others soon arrived, and rendered every possible assistance to the Brigade.  At the back of the factory another length of hose with a fair jet was used, and the new part of the factory was largely saved.  Had not the falling debris broken down the separating wall, little damage would have resulted in that part.  A good number of men broke into the back and brought out as much stock as possible.

  Unfortunately it was a long time before the Fire Brigade Steamer could get on the scene owing to the loss of time in getting horses to the Fire Station.  Had there not been a good pressure of water (from a hydrant in High-street) the spreading of the fire would have been inevitable.  At one time some sacks and other dry material on Messrs. Jaques and Clark’s factory had caught fire, and for a few moments the Brigade directed water on to it to prevent further damage.

  At intervals, with terrific roars and with tremors that could be felt hundreds of yards away, roof, machinery, and wall fell in.  Then the flames, which had at one time reached to a height of 30 or 40 feet above the roof, died down, and by noon were well under control.

  Thousands of people witnessed the destruction almost from beginning to end.  Mr. Harry Jaques (the principal of the firm) was an early arrival, and watched from the Carnegie-street allotments.  Mrs. Jaques came shortly afterwards.

  The Brigade toiled ceaselessly for hours around the walls of the factory, and by about 2 pm it was possible to ascend  -  by means of the fire escape  -  and attach ropes to pull down the loose and slanting brickwork.  This provided interest for hundred of on-lookers (and not a little amusement when a breaking rope caused the firemen some score of yards away to fall incontinently into a wriggling heap!)  Between 4 and 5 pm access to the inside of the walls was possible and the safes were opened, fortunately having preserved the ledgers, etc., intact.  Mr. W. McHorrell motored Mr. Jaques with the books to “Erskine House” (Mr. Jaques’s residence.) 

  The thousands of pounds damage is, we understand, covered by insurance, and although the firm had a good number of orders it will necessarily take a few weeks to find accommodation for the employees.

  Much valuable property surrounds the factory of Messrs. Jaques & Son, including St. Peter’s Church, Zion Baptist Chapel, the large and important factory of Messrs. Jaques & Clark, several shops, and private houses, and to the heroic work of the firemen must be attributed the fact that the property was saved, considering that every condition was favourable to the spread of the conflagration  -  the dryness of everything, the heat, and the wind.  Happily there was an abundant supply of water available, and the people of Rushden have real reason to be thankful for the success of the local water scheme.  Had such a fire taken place in most towns in England at a time of prolonged drought and excessive heat it could never have been confined to one building.

  The cause of the fire is not known.  The engineer, Mr. Robinson, and his assistants had been at work on the ground floor up to 10.45, but the fire started in the top floor.

  Much sympathy has been extended to Messrs. Jaques and Son in the disaster.  Other manufacturers have volunteered to help the firm to meet their orders, which just now are numerous.  It is hoped that many of the workmen will soon be found employment.

  In regard to the belated arrival of the Steamer, an excellent suggestion has been made that one of the Council motor vehicles should be used to take the Steamer to a fire.  By adjusting the front part of the Steamer for the motor vehicle instead of for horses, this seems possible.

  The firemen found it necessary on Monday morning to play upon some burning material, and they directed upon it a good stream of water, until at last everything was safe.

  All employees are requested to attend at the Trade Union Office, on Monday next, August 8th, at 9 am prompt.

  Mr. H. Jaques will attend at the Trade Union Office on Monday morning next, Aug. 8th, at nine o’clock, to place the position before the employees of the firm.

This set of postcards was
issued soon after the fire
fire 1921
smoke billowing
the hoses
The factory was originally built for W H Perkins & Co.

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