Sudden death at Melbourne House lodge

Grantham Journal
Saturday 9 September 1871

SHOCKING OCCURRENCE NEAR WAKEFIELD

On Saturday night, shortly before eight o’clock, Mr John Buckley, who occupies the farm buildings connected with Melbourne House, better known as “Prophet Wroe’s Temple”, situate at Wrenthorpe, near Wakefield, sent his son with a newspaper to one of the lodges in the Temple grounds, the sole occupant of which was an old Scotchwoman, named Jane Foreman Campbell. The young man returned, saying he could not make the old woman (who always kept the door locked) hear. Mr Buckley then went to the lodge, and on effecting an entrance perceived a strong smell of burning. On making an examination of the premises he found the old woman lying on the floor near her armchair. Her clothes were all destroyed, her body charred and adhering to the floor, and the seat of her chair was burnt out. It is supposed that whilst mending her stockings on the Thursday evening (which was the last time she was seen alive) her clothes caught fire, and she was burnt to death. She was seventy-nine years of age, was the widow of Mr Cotes Campbell, assistant-keeper at the Register House, Edinburgh, and mother of Mr W Campbell, C.E., Newcastle-on-Tyne, to whom she frequently wrote up to about a fortnight ago. An inquest has been held before Mr T Taylor, and a verdict of “Accidentally burnt” returned.

Suspected arson over 150 years ago

What with all the problems Daniel Milton caused Prophet Wroe in 1861 – claiming ownership of Melbourne House, preaching to thousands on Bradford Road, covering the walls of Wroe’s property with posters, and attempting to blow up one of the lodges it’s surprising the authorities didn’t try to pin these cases of arson on him.

Bradford Observer
Thursday 6 June 1861

SUPPOSED INCENDIARISM

About midnight yesterday week, a stack of wheat, situated at Bragg Lane End, about two-and-a-half miles from Wakefield, was discovered to be on fire, and there being but little water, it had to burn itself out. The damage done was about £35, which will fall on the owner, Mr Thomas Button. Again at midnight on Friday, another fire was discovered not far from the same place. This time the site was the stackyard of Mr James Henry Carr, farmer, the land belonging to “Prophet” Wroe, who is the leader of the Southcotian [sic] sect, and whose mansion (the centre of the earth) is in the neighbourhood. There were in the stackyard two wheat stacks, one straw stack, and one oat stack and in the adjoining shed, a large quantity of implements, besides forty loads of wheat. Again there was no water (except what could be got from a well in the yard), and so the best use was made of buckets, it being deemed useless to send for the engines from Wakefield. The result was the fire burnt on practically unchecked; on Saturday, at a late hour in the morning, it was not extinguished. The shed and its contents were destroyed, and nearly all the produce in the stacks. Mr Carr estimates his loss at £500, but he is insured (whether to the full extent or not we could not gather) in the Yorkshire Office. The most deplorable circumstance connected with both these fires is that they must have been the work of incendiaries.

Silcoates School reopens after fire

Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Friday 2 October 1908

NEW SCHOOL AT SILCOATES

The Right Hon Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Education, formally opened Silcoates School, near Wakefield, yesterday, and the occasion gave not only the principal functionary but other speakers opportunities alluding to views of the Government with regard to national education. The seminary declared open yesterday – though as a matter of fact it was already tenanted – has been erected to replace the buildings destroyed by fire some years ago. Behind it lies an interesting history. Originated in 1831, it was founded as an institution for the education of the sons of Independent ministers, and was called the Congregational School for the counties of Yorkshire end Lancashire. Subsequently, however, the title was changed to the Northern Congregational School. The sons of laymen were admitted, and the territorial limitation was abandoned. From time to time the finances of the undertaking suffered embarrassment. In 1871 the Silcoates estate was purchased for £15,000, and two years later were erected the buildings which were destroyed by fire. The Trustees own part of the coal rights of the estate, and the revenues derived therefrom are to be applied in the reduction of the mortgage. Roundly the scheme just completed involved an expenditure of £15,000, of which fully £7,000 has been either subscribed or promised. The ceremony was performed in glorious weather, and in presence of a gathering which included many of the elite of Congregationalism, to which body school belongs.

The wrong side of the beck

A small piece in the Leeds Mercury about a fire at Calvert Brothers rope factory in Jerry Clay Lane in the autumn of 1901, all but predicts a local disaster. And, had the burning building been the other side of the Foster Ford Beck, it would have been within the Stanley Urban District, not Wakefield Rural and had a much better chance of being saved.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 16 November 1901

WAKEFIELD RURAL COUNCIL & FIRES
AWKWARD PREDICAMENT AT POTOVENS

Early yesterday morning a large shed at Potovens, near Wakefield, belonging Messrs Calvert Bros, rope and twine manufacturers, was found to be on fire.

A message was at once despatched for the Wakefield City Fire Brigade, but it could not turn out owing to the Corporation having declined to enter into arrangements with the Rural Council to serve the district in case of fire.

The result was that the fire was allowed to burn itself out, and damage to the extent of £800 was done, including the destruction of about £500 of stock.

Two-and-a-half years later, Wakefield Rural District Council still hadn’t sorted out adequate fire fighting provision when Silcoates School burnt down in April 1904.

 

Silcoates School fire

The Leeds Mercury’s take on Silcoates fire, 1904. Interesting that the paper starts its news coverage with a paragraph on the famous Silcoates alumni.

The article also sheds lights on the problems in dealing with the fire. Not only the Wakefield Fire Brigade’s refusal to attend a fire outside its boundaries, but also the inadequate water supply in the vicinity of the School. The ‘Stanley main’ referred to was Stanley Urban District Council’s mains water supply which ended in what’s now Wrenthorpe Lane, at the bridge over Foster Ford Beck, the boundary between Stanley UDC and Wakefield Rural District Council.

Leeds Mercury
Friday 15 April 1904

THE DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT SILCOATES SCHOOL
SOME DISTINGUISHED FORMER PUPILS

The Northern Congregational School, which situate at the top of the hill at Silcoates, near Wakefield, and which was destroyed by fire early yesterday morning, was established on 24th August, 1831; and is well-known for the education many men who have made their mark in the world.

Amongst them we may mention names of Mr Godkin, editor of the “New York Evening Post”; Mr W T Stead, of “The Review of Reviews”; Mr T C Taylor MP, Sir George Newnes MP; Mr John Stubley, Batley; Mr Gerard Ford, Manchester; Mr John Ely, FRIBA, Manchester; and a number of well-known Congregational ministers. Since the school was established, about eight hundred sons of Congregational ministers have been educated there.

During the Easter vacation the school was thoroughly renovated, and the buildings would have presented a most attractive appearance when the pupils, numbering about eighty, returned from their holidays.

The fire was first discovered near what is known as the Juvenile Dormitory, and it had then got a firm hold. The appliances at hand were not sufficient to cope with the flames, which spread with great rapidity; and notwithstanding the efforts of many willing workers, the school building was soon doomed.

About one o’clock the Dewsbury Fire Brigade was sent for, but when they arrived they found they had not sufficient piping enable them to pump the water from the mill dam [Silcoates Mill] and the Stanley [water] main, a couple of fields away, their impression being that the building was situate near the main road. The only supply they were able to obtain was from a 3-inch main near the school, and the force was not strong enough to reach the topmost part of the building.

Before the Dewsbury men arrived, however, it was obvious that all chances of saving any portion of the school building had gone, and the efforts of the workers were concentrated on saving the house of the headmaster (Mr J A Yonge), who was spending his holidays in Switzerland. Sergeant Barraclough, of Dewsbury, handled his men splendidly, and he himself worked like a Trojan, with the result that they bad their efforts rewarded in seeing Mr Young’s house and furniture probably saved.

Soon after the fire was discovered, the Wakefield Fire Brigade were requested to attend, but the request was not complied with owing the fact that a couple of years ago a resolution was passed by the Wakefield Corporation to the effect that the brigade should not attend any more fires outside the city, as the rural authority declined to enter into an agreement to contribute towards the maintenance of a second engine and increased staff.

Painters and decorators have been busily at work since the school “broke up”, renovating the interior of the school building; and at first it was thought the fire was due the carelessness of the workmen. From the position of the fire, however, first discovered, the supposition is that it was caused through the overheating of a flue.

The damage, which roughly estimated at about £12,000, is only partly covered by insurance.

Crop fire at Broom Hall Farm

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Friday 7 August 1868

WAKEFIELD – FIELDS ON FIRE

On Tuesday night sparks from a passing railway engine ignited the highly-dried grass on the farm of Mr Thompson, Broom Hall, Potovens, near Wakefield. Although seen at once, before they could be subdued, the flames overran nearly three acres of meadow and stubble land. In two closes to which the fire penetrated were sheaves of corn awaiting removal to the barn, and had not vigorous efforts been made by the villagers, a portion of these at all events would have been burnt. About the time barley field, at Thornes, was set fire through the same cause, but fortunately some platelayers saw the smoke, and digging a trench, they managed to confine the conflagration within its limits.