A Destructive Fire at East Greenwich 1900

August 1900
The Thames Soap and Candle works situate on the banks of the Thames at East Greenwich on the west of the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel and owned by Messrs. Wilkie and Soames were the scene early on Sunday morning of one of the most destructive fires which have been discovered in the district for many years. Shortly after three o’clock the watchman discovered the fire in a building on the west side of the works and at once gave the alarm from the post about three hundred yards from the premises. The call was received at the fire station on Blackheath Hill at thirteen minutes past three and was promptly responded to by Engineer Wall and the firemen who were on duty. On arriving at the works the engineer found that the fire had already obtained a firm hold and seeing that he did not have sufficient men or appliances to cope with the outbreak he immediately dispatched a mounted messenger for further assistance. Mr. S.G.Gamble, second officer temporarily in charge of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, was one of the first to arrive and seeing the serious nature of the outbreak ordered the code signal ‘Brigade Call’ to be telegraphed all over London the result being that a large body of firemen and several steamers from all parts were quickly upon the spot and soon got to work. The following attended from this district: Blackheath Hill, New Cross, Woolwich, Blackheath, Shooters Hill, Lewisham, Deptford, Rotherhithe and Camberwell in addition to the two river floats from Cherry Garden Pier, Rotherhithe and Charing Cross. The fire, which broke out in an area where the manufacture of soap and candles is carried on, spread very rapidly and while a section of the firemen concentrated their efforts of the works others paid particular attention to the surrounding buildings, which were in danger of being destroyed. The whole of the stock standing in the open guard and in the several sheds offering ample food for the flames and the firemen had the hardest task possible set them. At four o’clock the fire had obtained a complete hold of the premises and it was only by strenuous efforts that the flames were subdued and an hour later Mr. Gamble was able to telephone to headquarters that the fire was sin and that no more help was required. The firemen however had to remain at the scene for many hours throwing water on the still smouldering ruins and in the course of the day a fresh draft of officers and men were sent to carry on the work of complete extinction. These men remained on duty until eight o’clock the following morning when they were replaced by the London Salvage Corps. Practically the whole of the works which occupied a very large space of ground were destroyed and consequently a considerable number of persons have been thrown out of employment. Of course the loss is very heavy and only partly covered by insurances. The origin of the outbreak had not yet been ascertained. The following is the official report: A range of buildings of one, two and four floors covering an area of 280ft by 230 ft (used as a manufactory, workshops and stores) and the contents burned and partly fallen down, a building of two floors about 200 ft by 40 ft (used as a vat room) roof damaged by fire and contents by water (adjoining and communicating) and a quantity of stock damaged by fire in yard.

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