At Bowral on Friday, January 17, 1890 an intense fire destroyed four shops on Bong Bong Street opposite the Post Office. The Bowral Free Press published a detailed report, extracts of which commenced in last week's article and continue here.
"The morning was perfectly calm; and the break of day had hardly commenced when the first intimation of the fire was given. Smoke was issuing from Mr Tonks' tailoring premises, apparently from the private residence portion of the building, but nearly simultaneously the flames burst over the roof of Mr Pembers' fruit shop on the one side and the skylight of the mart on the other, and also through the front window of Mr Tonks' shop.
"In nearly as short a time as it takes to write it, the three buildings were in flames, and no efforts could have saved them from total destruction. The fire started its fury at about 4 o'clock on Friday morning, and at 5:20 there was very little of note and nothing of consequence left between Mr Howarth's and Mr Murray's butcher's shop - the devouring flames had completely demolished the business premises of Messrs H Pember, S Tonks, J Alford (the furniture mart), and C Prior. Mr Murray's butcher's shop was saved with the utmost difficulty; nothing but persistent, laborious efforts prevented the flames reaching it; two or three times a portion of the wall and roof were red hot and on the point of bursting into fire, but it was subdued by steady streams of water thrown upon it, and by the aid of wet blankets. Everything in the premises known as Howarth's (the business of which was sold to Jones and Wallace during the past week) was removed to either side of the street. The verandah caught fire, but by knocking a portion of it down the flames were got under control.
Read more: The day that Bowral burned
"In the centre of the fire, which had now reached over the extent of the four buildings, a great volume of fire rose to a considerable height, and the heat was almost unbearable on the opposite side of the street. But the fire was well confined; even when at its height a calm survey (if it was possible to take it under the circumstances) showed plainly that the brick buildings on the other side would check its career in the front street.
"At the back of the premises, however, things were less sure; a number of inflammable outhouses, partition fences, and back-yard paraphernalia generally were splendid fuel; and the fire was travelling around it at an alarming rate, twisting sheets of iron, crackling deal cases and paling fences with a ferocious fury, and threatening to reach the Royal Hotel by this route. To prevent this a dozen men, under the direction of Mr CW Baylis, laboured splendidly, capsizing sundry immodest buildings, and uprooting the fence and carrying it out of reach of the fire. By this means, and with the aid of a plentiful supply of water, devastation was checked; and Mr Eames' and the Royal Hotel premises escaped, phoenix-like.
"While these efforts were being directed at the corner, another body of men were as busily engaged at the butcher's shop. The walls of Mr Prior's shop were iron, and as they were twisted into all sorts of contortions, and the wood-work was entirely enveloped, the red hot wall began to fall out into the butcher's shop, and bring a body of fire along with it. To prevent this, one army of men by means of props and poles and anything handy got a purchase on the wall and forced it back the opposite way on to the fire, where it fell with a crash. While this was going on, men were removing goods from the shop to the other side of the street.
"Having been thus confined, the fire speedily burnt itself out; and well inside of two hours from the time it was first seen, the four premises mentioned were a mass of smouldering cinders. The building known as Howarth's had a very narrow escape; the side wall, two-storey, was under a fierce flame of fire, and it has cracked considerably. The only vestige left of the four premises was the front brick wall of Mr Prior's shop, but as it was tottering, and the wood-work in it burning to a cinder, a body of men got the poles on to it and forced it over in to the burning ruins."
The BFP report also noted that, due to the intense heat, water filling a large galvanised iron tank almost boiled.
- Berrima District Historical and Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 2 of a 3-part series. To be continued.
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