The Lion Brewery Fire at Northampton in December 1862

Northampton Mercury,    13 December 1862

Total Destruction of the Lion Brewery by Fire. -----

The extensive brewery of Messrs. Jope and Jope, formerly Haggerís, situate in Cotton End, on the south bank of the river, was totally destroyed by fire on Tuesday night last. Messrs. Jope have recently made very considerable alterations and improvements in their plant, and these were not entirely completed. The fire was first discovered by nearly the whole roof bursting into one sheet of flame about eleven oíclock. For a long time it raged furiously without interference, and when the engines arrived they were powerless against the glowing mass upon which they had to play. The entire roof speedily fell in upon the numerous vats of beer and stores of malt and hops, which became ignited, and shot up towering bodies of flame, and myriads of sparks. The scene was frightfully grand. At a quarter past twelve the engine from the Barracks dashed at almost incredible speed down Bridge-street, and across the bridge, manned by a troop of the 5th Lancers, under the command of Captain Doyle. By this time it was evident that nothing could save the brewery, and the efforts of the firemen were directed to saving the stock of new beer in a store-house at the south extremity of the building, and the protection of a large stock of timber at the back of the building, belonging to Messrs. Smith Brothers. A creek runs up at the back of the brewery from the river, dividing it from Messrs. Smithís yard, and the soldiers having shipped an engine on board a barge did effective service from that locality. The timber and the stock of new beer were saved, but the whole of the brewery, and a very large stock of old ale, hops and malt were utterly destroyed. We are sorry to say that the event strikingly manifested the inefficiency of the fire engine establishment. It was quite too late when the firemen reached the scene of destruction for any effectual assistance to be rendered, and when they did get there several of them behaved in a most in subordinate and disgraceful manner. One fellow got so drunk that it was necessary to lock him up in a stable to prevent him from mischief. Drunkenness, indeed was general; barrels were tapped, and the heads staved in to get at the contents; others were actually rolled into the river for the purpose of floating them into the opposite meadow and we believe some are in the river at this moment. It is clear that the whole Fire Establishment needs a complete reorganisation. The building is the property of Mr. Hagger and was upon the point of being transferred to Messrs. Jope who had contracted to purchase it. It was insured in the County Fire Office. The stock of Messrs. Jope was also insured in the County, but we fear not to the full extent of the loss, without taking into consideration the serious evils which must follow from the stoppage to the business. Fortunately the building was isolated from all dwelling-houses. The fire was occasioned by a defect in the copper furnace.  

Northampton Mercury,    13 December 1862


Messrs. Jope & Jope beg to return their sincere and grateful THANKS to all their Griends amd the Miitary, for the able assistance rendered by them at their disastrous fire. They also avail themselves of this opportunity to inform their Customers and the Public generally, that (until the Brewery is re-built), they have made such arrangements as will enable them to supply First-class Ales, Stout, Hops and Spirits, as heretofore.

Lion Brewery, Northampton

Northampton Mercury,    13 December 1862

To the Editor of the Northampton Mercury.  December 11th, 1862.

Sir, ---   I was present at the fire at Messrs. Jopeís Brewery on Tuesday night, and whilst there, I could not but regret the wanton and unnecessary destruction of property that took place. I was disposed, in common, I think, with everyone who was a spectator, to blame the firemen for not being quicker on the spot, and because they were so very long before they rendered any really efficient service when they did arrive. Upon further consideration, I think the blame should rest not so much with the men as the system under which they work. These men, I find, live in all parts of the town, and receive no remuneration, except when actually employed at a fire. There are, moreover, amongst them, some men far too advanced in life for such work as this. Now what can be expected under such circumstances? After an alarm of fire is given it would take any one person three-quarters of an hour merely to call the firemen, and to suppose that men who have so little interest in the matter as these men have, with their small remuneration, can be really effective, is quite absurd. You will, no doubt, have a number of letters narrating the incidents of the fire, and the want of efficient aid from the fire engines. I therefore content myself with suggesting that this subject should be immediately considered by the Fire Engine Committee. No manís property is safe under the present system and to reckon upon anything but a total loss, if a fire happened to any of us, is to make a useless calculation. Would it not be better that  the firemen should all live next to one another and as an inducement to greater efficiency and the obtaining of a better class of men, that the rent of these houses should be paid by the town? I am sorry to hear that in this case, the Messrs. Jope will lose something very considerable beyond the amount which they are insured. As an eye witness of the whole of the proceedings, I have no hesitation in saying that if the engines had been quickly on the spot s they might have been, and been properly worked when they did come, at least £1,000 worth of property might have been saved, and perhaps all Messrs. Jopeís loss prevented.
I am, Sir, your obedient Servant, A TOWNSMAN.

    Northampton Mercury, Sat 10 Jan 1863.

With reference to a complaint made of the efficiency of the engines at the late fire at Messrs. Jope and Jopeís brewery, the committee find that the delay is getting the county engine to work arose from the suction pipe getting into the mud in the river, which occasioned it to be come temporarily inoperative. The committee received a letter from Charles smith, the superintendent of the fire brigade, tendering his resignation on account of ill-health and they recommended that such resiganyion be excepted, and that Charles John Smith be appointed in his stead, at a salary of £12 per annum, and that Henry Lines be appointed assistant superintendant, at a salary of £6 per annum. The committee at the same time revised the brigade, and made some changes in the men, and recommended that in future the number of firemen be ten, in addition to the superintendant and assistant superintendant. Subsequently the committee selected, and now recommended that the following persons be the future firemen:- Charles John Smith, superintendant; Henry Lines, assistant ditto; Samuel Fennell, Cow Lane: Thomas Cave, bricklayer, Victoria-terrace; Henry Treadwell, bricklayer, Bailiff-street; Wm. Letts, carpenter, Oak-street; Samuel Kilby, carpenter, Riding; Wm. Gent, carpenter, Inkermann-terrace; John Sumpter, plumber, St. Maryís-street; --- Freeman, shoemaker, Horsemarket; Frederick Pollard, moulder, Dychurch-lane; John Knight, machine maker, Bridge-street. ---- Mr Moore enquired how long Charles Smith, jun., had been a fireman, --- Mr. Markham said about six or seven years. --- Mr. Moore said he had always heard that Lines was a most efficient fireman; he had been much longer a servant of the fire brigade and he considered he had a prior claim to be superintendant. He proposed that Lines be superintendant. ---Mr. Jeffery agreed that Lines was an efficient servant, and so was Smith. He should support the report, and in doing so he should ask, How where these men to be got together? Might not some plan be adopted by which the fire brigade should reside in one street. At present they were scattered over all parts of the town, --- some in Wellingborough road and some in St. Maryís-street. --- Mr. Parberry said Smith was an excellent plumber, and it was necessary to have such a man. A better man than Lines didnít live, and if he were younger he would make an excellent superintendant. --- Mr. Hinton seconded the observations made by the chairman of the Engine Committee. It was suggested that four houses should be rented for the firemen in close proximity to the fire-engine. --- Mr. Watkin urged the great importance of an efficient brigade, and spoke strongly against the wretched system of paying men at a public-house. He did think the town should be much safer for a volunteer force. The present brigade was the worst, he believed, in the world. As to the apology for the inefficiency of the engines at the late fire, it was all nonsense. Did not everybody know there was mud in a river, and that if they stuck the hose in it, it would be chocked? --- Mr. Pressland said he supported Lines because Charles Smith applied for the office, and Lines did not, and he thought that the man who manifested an interest in it was the fittest person to appoint. With reference to what Mr Watkin had said, he was not sorry to have the whole subject ventilated. But the firemen were not paid by the Board, but by the agents of the Fire Insurance Companies. He hoped some method would be adopted by which might pay men in a more efficient way. ---- Mr Higgins believed there was no feeling in the committee but to make the brigade efficient. As regarded a volunteer brigade, he thought the town would appreciate the services of any young men who would assist here as at other places. The old brigade had got to such a state that he believed they could only pick out three from the dozen men. ---- Mr. W. Jeffery wished to know whether Lines knew of the intention to appoint a superintendant. He was told he did not. ---- Mr, Gurney thought this was too important a subject to be decided in a hurry; he moved an adjournment to consider whether it would not be better to make some payment to these men. Mr Vernon seconded the motion. He thought in the meantime they had better apply to the fire offices on the subject. --- Mr. Moore supported the motion for adjournment. ---- Mr. Hensman said they all knew the men referred (possibly refused) to come out because they didnít know where to get their money. What a farce it was: Appoint half-a-dozen efficient men, and pay them. These men got up in the middle of the night risked their lives, and then had to get their money from those mean insurance offices in London, as they could, for saving their property. His sons told him Lines and the men from the Barracks did more than all the fire Brigade put together. He thought the question out to be reconsidered. --- Mr. T. Osborn reminded Mr. Hensman that many fires occurred where the property was uninsured. He thought they would find that the insurance offices were ready to pay for assistance in all cases where there was in insurance. The motion was put, when there appealed for the adoption of the report, 16; for an adjournment, 14.