Massive fire on wharf spread to houses

Massive fire on wharf spread to houses

Massive fire on wharf spread to houses

First published in Archives
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Archivist

A MASSIVE fire dominated the headlines of the Daily Echo 100 years ago today with Europe just weeks away from the outbreak of the First World War.

The blaze enveloped the premises of Messrs Shepard Bros Ltd, on Medina Commercial Wharf, at Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

As good fortune would have it, there was very little damage to the stores and contents, but the fire created much anxiety as it raged fiercely, completely burning out two huge coal stores measuring 100ft by 60ft.

The roofs of four nearby houses in Medina Terrace were also destroyed, causing the startled inhabitants to hurriedly leave their homes for the shelter of friendly neighbours.

Donald Marshall, a bugler aboard the SS Liberty, was early on the scene and roused many from their slumber with his bugle call, as hundreds of spectators began to gather at the scene to watch the flames, which, on occasions, leapt 20ft above the houses.

A party of 40 Bluejackets from the HM Cumberland gave whatever assistance they could to the men of the Cowes fire brigade, but despite all their combined efforts they could not prevent the loss of three horses that perished in a stable from which it was impossible to rescue them.

A Daily Echo photograph, which appeared later that week in a sister publication, the fortnightly Southampton and District Pictorial, revealed the full extent of the damage, which was estimated at up to £4,000.

A serious case under the Diseases of Animals Act was heard at the Southampton County Bench, when Ernest Bryant, a chauffeur of Winchester Road, Bassett, was summoned for failing to notify the police of an outbreak of swine fever at his premises between April and June of that year.

The court, taking a serious view of the case in which 43 pigs were involved, heard how the defendant bought a number of pigs, but soon the animals appeared sick and several began to die off.

The situation came to light after the chief inspector to the Board of Agriculture examined the stock and ordered that all the animals be killed.

In his defence Bryant claimed that, as this was his first experience of keeping pigs, he had no idea he had to give notice to the police, and had been left penniless after sinking all of his money into the venture.

In light of these circumstances the Bench was lenient when returning its sentence and fined him £4.

Meanwhile, on the mainland, the Daily Echo revealed that a series of towers, each armed with two quick-firing guns, for defence against aircraft, were to be provided around Portsmouth Harbour, with the first already being erected.

It was also reported that a number of these battlements would be positioned at various other locations along the southern coastline.

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