Port Elizabeth of Yore: Newpaper clippings on fires during 1903 and 1904

Being such a tiny town at the turn of the century, one would not have expected so many fires. Yet there were an inordinate number based upon anedcdotal evidence of the newspaper clippings of that period. Needless to say but this fact was atributable to both the archaic fire fighting equipment exacerbated by the type of construction materials used.

Serious fire in North End on 4 January 1905

Serious fire in North End – 4 January 1905-img211

Through a fire which broke out late on Monday night, the large boarding-house and butcher’s shop in Adderley Street occupied by Mr. Harry Dixon was completely gutted and owing to the total destruction of furniture etc, extensive damage occasioned.

Arthur Butterworth – City Engineer

The fire which is supposed to have originated in the shop situated at the corner of the building,quickly spread, and within a very short period the upper part of the building was ablaze. With the aid of the hose-reel from the jail, willing workers did their utmost to keep the fire in check, but their efforts were practically unavailing. Meanwhile the Brigade had been summoned, and although they were on the scene within seven minutes of the call, they discovered that [they]had to contend with a large building blazing fiercely. The interior of the premises was principally of wooden construction, and of course, fell an easy prey to the devouring flames.The fireman immediately directed the jets of water on the various parts of the premises, but despite their most sternuous efforts they at first could make no appreciable difference on the fire, but it is a remarkable fact that within half-an-hour of the arrival they had secured a thorough mastery of the flames, and what had been a raging fire was subdued.

At the time of the outbreak there was only one boarder in the house; the proprietor, his wife, and the other boardershaving gone away on a holday. The only remaining occupant had a very narrow escape, and it was only a very narrow escape, and it was only by jumping from the balcony that he escaped. The burnning premises were in close proximity to Messrs Hazlett & Hall’s stables, and a large number of horses were removed from the stables to a place of safety. For a time much anxiety was also felt for the safety of the premises belonging to Messrs. Quick & Thoroughgood. The destroyed premises belonged to Mrs. Povey and it has not been ascertained whether they are covered by insurance. Furniture to the extent of at least £800 has been burned, but it is understood that this is nearly wholly insured.

Owing to the fact that large numbers of people were at the time returning from the different places where they had been spending the holiday, a crowd of great proportions soon gathered; but it speaks well for the smart and energetic manner in which the members of the brigade attacked the fire thatnot a single voice was raised either in jeering criticism or advice, which at such a time is gnerally so freely given.

Building ofHeazlett & Hall Contractors destroyed in fire img210
Building ofHeazlett & Hall Contractors destroyed in fire

Accident at Bisseker, George & Co

Main Street. 1901.The corner of St Andrew’s Street. Bisseker, George & Co.’s premises (boots & shoes) built in 1893 and Baker & Co. (drapers)

Accident to Motor Fire Engines

Impression of a PE Fire Brigade turnout

G=Grey I = Institute

Evaluation of the Fire Brigade

Photo studio destroyed in fire

5/5 - (1 vote)

1 Comment

  1. Arson as a prelude to an insurance claim must have accounted for x per cent of the fires? Another fascinating slice of the history of the town!

    • Hi Bernard
      I did not enjoy writing this blog so I am glad that somebody enjoyed it.
      I had more info but I just stopped writing

      Dean McCleland


Leave a Comment.