You rarely see devastating local fires today. Mainly thanks to an efficient fire service and safer building practices.
This image shows a fire at Frog Street, Bishops Lydeard which took place on Monday, 9th April, 1906. The cottages were shown intact on a similar postcard by Montague Cooper two years earlier.
The fire began at 4.30pm in the roof of the cottage at the west end of the street. Taunton fire brigade were summoned by telegram and arrived at the scene in a remarkable thirty-two minutes. Assisted by the local brigade the fire was fought until midnight but all seven cottages were effectively destroyed.
A fire occurred at Fyne Court the home of Mrs Hamilton who was out for the day in 1894. Her maid found her bedroom on fire and ran to Broomfield to summon help. A mounted messenger was sent down to Kingston but found the telegraph there inactive.
He had to ride on to Taunton to summon the fire brigade. In great haste the fire appliance was readied and attached to four good horses. The brigade ran into trouble on the hill beyond Kingston and the men had to dismount and push. On arrival at the scene it was found that the house was burning furiously and the roof soon collapsed. Only two wings of the house were saved and it was never rebuilt.
Rumour had it that a lot of gold belonging to Mrs Hamilton was lost in the fire and never recovered. The cause of the fire appeared to be the maids hot curling tongs left on some linen.
Two great fires occurred at Bathpool Mills. The second was in 1915 and presented a spectacle drawing crowds from miles around. Sadly, Taunton fire brigade was not among them. A working agreement with the Borough and Rural District Councils had broken down. Taunton brigade turned out but would not pass the town boundary Bathpool being just beyond. Extensive damage occurred much to the rebuilt structure resulting from the first fire in 1890.
Thatched properties were a particular risk particularly with the arrival of steam lorries. A serious fire took place at Home Farm at Norton Fitzwarren and the village established its own brigade in 1906 after the loan of an appliance by Mr Arnold at the brewery.
The town saw several commercial premises destroyed by fire. In 1907 Stones garage in Staplegrove Road was destroyed along with several cars. A ladder at the road junction opposite the shop served as an emergency fire depot. Pollards timber yard suffered a huge fire during the floods of 1889. A fire at Sanger’s Circus caused the deaths of six people in 1920.
Prior to that a huge fire destroyed East Street Drapery but in far more recent years twelve lives were lost in the sleeping car fire near Silk Mills in 1978.
By Nick Chipchase