Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

11 erthygl ar y dudalen hon







FIRE AT BROGYNTYN. Brogyntyn, the residence of Mr J. R. Ormsby Gore, M.P. for North Shropshire (better known, perhaps, to some of our readers by its former name, Porkington), narrowly escaped destruction by fire on Saturday evening, March 14, when it was so seriously injured that, according to the rough estimate which has been made by several persons who have inspected the damaged fabric, the damage can- not be repaired for much less than £ 5,000. Brogyntyn is not only the residence of one of the leading families in this part of the country, and the popular member for North Shropshire it is also intimately associated with the history of the Border for centuries and the present mansion con- tains valuable manuscripts, books, and works of art, whose loss would he irreparable. When, therefore, the news was spread that the mansion was in flames, considerable excitement prevailed in Oswestry and the neighbourhood, and before the night was over large numbers ot people from places as far off as Chirk, and even from W rexham it is said, had made their way to Brogyntyn. The fire was discovered about a quarter past four by Mr Shingler, the head gardener, who was in the garden and saw smoke issuing from the roof, round the kitchen chimney stack. Of course the alarm was given at once, and preparations were made to deal with the flames in the most effective way. A mounted messenger was despatched for the Oswestry engines, and a staff of men belonging to the house and estate was at once collected on the roof, where there are two galvanized iron tanks holding about 4,000 gallons, and at the time the fire broke out these tanks were quite full. There was a good supply of buckets and cans on the premises, and, armed with these, the men on the roof, under the command of Mr Price, at once attacked the fire in a workmanlike way. By a quarter to five they had begun to open the slating and pour water un the flames, which, in the first twenty minutes or half hour made re- markable rapid progress. Indeed, to persons in the park at the time a great mass of fire appeared suddenly to burst up from the roof; it was soon evident that a great deal of hard work would be required to save the building, and the efforts of Mr Price and his staff were wisely directed to the protection of the main body of the fabric. Near the centre of the building is a glass dome, which covers the great staircase, and it was obvious that if the fire reached this spot, and the dome fell in, such a draught would be created as would almost inevitably give over the whole house to destruction. The fire was now raging in the upper part of the eastern -P wing (which fronts the drive through the park), where several of the servants' bedrooms are situated. At the close of last week, we believe, only three persons were occupy- ing these rooms, the housekeeper, and two kitchenmaids, whose apartment was at the extreme end of the wing. The flames increased too rapidly to enable the kitchen- maids to save their property; they lost all they possessed except the clothes they were wearing, and after the fire was over the ruined case of a gold watch, which belonged to one of them, was found in the ruins. The housekeeper was more fortunate, and saved all her property. Besides twelve attics and a large room at the eastern end, this wing contains, immediately below the attics, a number of "bachelors' bedrooms" and one dressing room, and lower still the private apartments of Mr and Mrs Ormsby Gore, including Mrs Ormsby Gore's boudoir and wardrobe room. Mrs Ormsby Gore was in London, on a visit to her father, on Saturday, but Mr Ormsby Gore had returned from a visit to Combermere Abbey not long before the alarm was given. He reached Oswestry by train, and drove first to Park Hall, and then to Brogyntyn, and he was in the library when Shingler brought the news of the fire to the house. The hon. gentleman at once proceeded to adopt the best measures practicable in the circumstances and intelligence of the disaster was telegraphed to Wrexham and Ruabon, from which places, as will be seen, fire brigades arrived in the course of the evening. Mr Ormsby Gore was soon joined by several of his friends, and spent the evening in doing what he could to help and encourage those who had hastened to his help. One fire-engine from Oswestry was despatched with con- siderable promptitude, and reached Brogyntyn about an hour after the alarm was given at the house, but it was almost another hour before the second arrived, and it would be quite as well if this extraordinary delay were explained. We believe we are right in saying that some of the horses which drew the first engine were sent back from Brogyntyn to fetch the second It would have been quite as well if a team had been despatched from the house at first, but it probably never entered the mind of anyone there that horses could not be procured at once in a town like Oswestry to draw two engines By half-past five or so the first engine was being worked with a will, and happily there was an ample supply of water from a great tank in the yard, which as it emptied was constantly sup- plied from two neighbouring ponds. The same policy of keeping the fire to one part of the building was still pursued, and in the end was crowned with remarkable suc- cess but at the same time of course the water was poured upon the flames, which, having commenced near the main body of the fabric, were after six o'clock chiefly raging at the east end of the eastern wing. About a quarter past six the second engine arrived, and was soon pumping water on the fire. The scene nowigrew very exciting. On the roof a large number of men were passing buckets from the tanks from hand to hand, and others were removing the slates and emptying the buckets on the fire, or on parts of the building which they were trying to pro- tect against the progress of the flame. In the room below Mr Thomas (Thomas and Whitfield) was doing good ser- vice with an extincteur, which helped to prevent the spread of the fire, and which, it is said, might possibly have extinguished it if it had been kept on the premises, and used as soon as the alarm was given. In the yard the two engines were keeping up their loud pulsation, while the firemen, on ladders and along the roof, were directing the copious streams of water to their proper mark and all round the house detachments of sturdy workers were carrying books, pictures, and furniture, to places of safety. The spot on which most interest was concentrated was one of the bachelors' rooms looking into the court-yard. The flames had made their way through the flooring of the attics, and the room we refer to was full of flame. A few minutes before, only a few lurid gleams were noticed there, but somebody, with the best intentions but the worst results, had rushed up a ladder, opened a window, and created a perfect furnace of flame. Inside was seen the figure of a man looking through the window: a moment or two more and down fell a great mass of burning cieling, apparently on the unfortunate man's head but it was discovered afterwards that he had just escaped in time to save, prob- ably, his life. Night was setting in now, and the wind was rising. Till nearly seven o'clock there was almost a calm, but a strong north-west wind then sprang up and blew the flames along the house, which it was feared might become a total wreck. It soon became clear that the only wise thing to do was to sever the upper part of the eastern wing entirely from the rest of the house. Slates were accordingly pulled off and beams cut through, and pieces of roofing were thrown to the ground in front, to the imminent danger of any per- sons who were recklessly wandering about in the dark. Happily no accident happened to them, or to anyone else, with the exception of a man named James Newick, who has been employed in the Cambrian Works. Newick was working on the roof when he put his wrist out and seriously injured h;8 arm. On Monday morning, we may here state,Mr Ormsby Gore visited Newick, and sat for some time with him. It was between seven and eight, a3 we have said, that the most desperate battle was fought with the flames, which for some time seemed to defy the energetic exertions of the firemen. The spectators watched the struggle with eager interest, and it was marvellous to notice how long the flames seemed to be confined to a couple of rooms. The adjoining room was scanned with anxious eye for more than an hour, when, unhappily, the fire made its way through the walls and filled the chamber. Hope gave way for a while to serious forebodings, but at length the water gained the mastery, and just before eight o'clock almost the only piece of fabric actually in flames seemed to be the sash of one of the windows. Into the room one brave fel- low ventured and cut away the sash, amid loud cries of Bravo and the applause of the admiring crowd. That was really the finishing stroke. The engines, however, went on playing till towards ten o'clock on the smouldering ruins, and large numbers of people remained on the scene. Between nine and ten Sir Watkin W. Wynn, accom- panied by his chief agent, Mr Owen S. Wynne, and Mr William Wynne, arrived with his private fire brigade, which he directed to remain on the spot all night and about the same time the Wrexham fire brigade reached the house; of course after the work had been mainly accom- plished. In the course of the evening a staff of fifty men selected from those employed on the estate was told off to remain on guard all night, under the direction of Mr Price and Supt. Gough, and about half-past three in thQ morning, when the wind was boisterous, their services Were required, A portion of the debris burst into flames but the engines were at hand and the blaze was speedily extinguished; and that was the end of tae fire at Brogyntyn. The damage, roughly estimated at 25,000 (though it is impossible to say whether that is correct), is, we believe, covered by insurance. The twelve attics in the eastern wing, with a large room at the end, and their contents, were destroyed, with the exception of the housekeeper's property. Four of the bachelors' rooms also were partially destroyed, and the ceilings of the others and of some ef Mr and Mrs Ormsby Gore's apartments were damaged but happily the boudoir and wardrobe room entirely escaped. Most of the furniture was removed from the house immediately after the alarm was given, and placed on the lawn, where it was covered by tarpauling kindly lent by Mr Alexander Walker and the Great Western Railway officia's. The furniture includes a handsome sideboard, carved, with representa- tions of Little Red Riding Hood, by Major llinghurst-a cousin of Mr Ormsby Gore's and much of it is made of oak from the estate. One of the first things Mr Barrett did was to take charge of the famous sword which Lord Capel, the day before his execution, presented to Sir John Owen (an ancestor of Mr Ormsby Gore'), and the valuable manuscripts, which were kept in the morning room, in the front of the house. The manuscripts, as is well known, in- clude a fine copy of Higden's Polychronicon," and many original letters of Charles I., Prince Rupert, and others. I These Mr Barrett at once placed in the strong "room. The porcelain and pictures (of which Mr Lowther and Mr H. Lewis had charge), and some of the books and ornaments were removed to the outbuildings, and so admirable was the behaviour of the willing band's of workers, and the crowd generally, that not a single thing was injured, though some were deli- cate articles like glass shades. Indeed, we are specially requested to mention the conduct of the hundreds of per- sons who visited Brogyntyn on Saturday night. There was no stint of workers, and no disorder amongst the crowd. The only regrettable thing was the want of organ- ization amongst the firemen, and it was not pleasant to see windows broken apparently for no purpose; but the fact that a serious fire, which had got well hold of the building be- fore the engines arrived, was virtually extinguished in less than four hours, and confined in a high wind to one part of the building, is sufficient praise to the contingent under Mr Bremner Smith, as well as that under Mr Pryce. It was supposed by many of the spectators on Saturday that the part of the building where the fire occurred had been lately added to the house, but this was incorrect, though the eastern wing had shared in the extensive reno- vation which had been going on for four years, and was only recently completed a fact which increases the sym- pathy for the family in the disaster from which they are suffering. The origin of that disaster it seems impossible to ascertain. By some it is supposed that the fire began in the housemaid's closet, by which the kitchen chimney runs. The fact that a quantity of wood and paper was stored in that portion of the house increases the impression that the flue was the cause of the disaster; though, on the other hand, it should be mentioned that this theory is strongly opposed by some, including the architect, who argue that there was no reason why the flue should set fire to the house on Saturday more than on previous days when it had been quite as much heated, and suggest that a match, accident- ally dropped amongst the wood or paper, was a more probable cause of fire. We give both theories and do not pretend to decide which of them is correct, or whether they are not both equally false. Some surprise was expressed on Saturday that there were not proper appliances at Brogyntyn for extinguishing fires. It will be seen from this report that the storage of water was ample, and we understand Mr Ormsby Gore was about to purchase a fire engine. The assemblage which collected at the house included the Hon. R. S. Cotton, Col. Lovett, Major Lloyd, Capt. Arkwright, Mr Davenport, Mr F G. B. Swete, Mr Rowland Venables, Mr P. O. Gill, Mr Jno. Jones, Mr Hanmer Joues, Mr H. Crump, Pentrepant, the Rev. Howell Evans, the Rev. W. Thomas, the Rev. A. C. Lewis, the Mayor of Oswestry (Mr C. W. Owen) Mr G. Owen, Mr Luke Blackwell, Mr W. H. Spaull, Mr Jno. Ward, The Donnet, Mr T. Savin, Mr A. Walker, Dr Fuller, Mr Sides Davies, and many others, including most of the tradesmen of Oswestry, of whom it is of course im- possible to give a list.