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New Year’s Eve fire at Spalding offices 1918 and events

We look back to the Lincs Free Press of this week 100 years ago…

The passing of the old year and the advent of 1918 was marked by one of the most disastrous fire which Spalding had experienced for many years.

Damage costing around £3,000 was caused to premises belonging to Messrs G F Birch & Sons, of High Street, on New Year’s Eve, 1917.

When Mr G F Birch, head of the famous firm of corn and cake merchants, left the offices with his manager shortly after nine o’clock that evening, there was no sign of anything being amiss.

But little more than an hour later, a Double Street resident noticed a flare of fire proceding from some buildings across the river and immediately informed fireman Butler, who at once gave the alarm

The fire alarm bell rang at five minutes to eleven o’clock and by this time, the flare of the outbreak, which it was discovered was in the well-appointed offices of Messrs Birch & Sons, was lighting up the sky and could be seen for miles distant, one enquiry being made from as far away as Moulton Chapel.

Large crowds began to assemble on both sides of the river and were treated to one of the fiercest fire displays the town as known

The offices were extensive and practically the whole of the interor was built up of pitch pine partitions – a huge quantity of wood and all highly varnished.

By the time the alarm was sounded, the firm was a seething mass of flame, the woodwork sizzling, crackling and hissing, whilst the roof was quickly burned completely away and huge sheets of flame, burning timbers and papers and loosened slates were hurtling in all directions.

In the first hour of the New Year the flames began to decrease, but it was some time before the fire was finally extinguished.

The exact cause of the outbreak was unascertained, but may have been connected with the heating apparatus in the building.


Civilian POWs return

The first batch of repatriated English civilian prisoners of war from Germany landed at the Fish Dock in Boston.

A Red Cross train conveying a considerable number of the 400 men stopped in Spalding on its way to Peterborough and London.

There were only a few people on the platform, in addition to the railway staff, but many of the men in the train waved to those there and in some cases exchanged a few words and expressed their joy at being in England once again.

The train stayed for a few minutes before moving on.

Woman found drunk in shed

Ellen Tungate, married woman, of Love Lane, Spalding, pleaded guilty to being drunk on licensed premises.

She was found asleep in a shed at the rear of the New Bell Inn. The defendant was so drunk she could not stand. She was fined 6s 6d.

Missing light on night-time cart

Albert Jackson, of Deeping St Nicholas, avoided a fine after the Bench withdrew a summons for driving with only one headlight on his cart.

Jackson said he was unaccustomed to driving at night and needed the doctor for his boy.

Out of control

Meads Langley, of Gedney Hill, wsa fined four shillings for failing to keep a dog under control at night.

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