FIRE in AUCKLAND, 6th & 7th Sep 1873 - burns down HALF of central QUEEN St :: Genealogy
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FIRE in AUCKLAND, 6th & 7th Sep 1873 - burns down HALF of central QUEEN St

Journal by ngairedith

taken from the DAILY SOUTHERN CROSS 26 September 1873

- (which is a 2011 equivalent of about $8,575,000)



... For a long time past Auckland has been free from destructive fires, but on September 6 and 7 we had a visitation which will be long remembered. Just as the hour of midnight was striking on the town clock it was observed that the shop of Mr POWLEY, linen draper, Queen-street, was on fire in a back room near the roof.

... Mr POWLEY's shop, as is well known, is situated upon the westen side of Queen street, nearly midway between DARBY's Thistle Hotel and the United Service Hotel at the corner of Wellesley street. This block of buildings, over 20 in number, was most closely built together, and with but few exceptions they were all two and three storeys high. They were also all comparatively old and thoroughly dry, and thus in the best possible condition for spreading the fire.

At the northern end of Mr POWLEY's shop there was a narrow passage, giving access to the premises at the rear of the buildings fronting Queen-street. When first seen the fire seemed to have hold of the upper corner of the back room next to the passage. Almost immediately after the alarm of fire was given Sergeant O'CONNOR came on the ground, and rushed into the building. No one slept on the premises, the family residing in a house in the upper part of Wakeford-street. When Sergeant O'CONNOR burst into the shop he found there was a ? grate in the back-room - the building was but one storey high - and that the fire had originated by a cinder from the grate. The fire had a firm hold upon the premises, but it is believed that had he had a supply of water with him an active check could have bee given to the progess of the flames. This, however, he had not.

In a short time the fire worked to the outside, and the wind blowing right across the passage, caused an eddy of the flame which thus swirled continuously against the end of the shop occupied by Mr W. FAREY, grocer, whose premises were immediately on the north side of the passage above referred to.
From this cause the fire at first seemed to make more progress creeping up against the wind than it did before the wind.

After the fire had got beyond the control of the futile attemts of the fire brigades to arrest its progress, the scenes of estruction were painful to witness.
Large two-storey buildings were seen standing entire, and not a spark of fire unpon them. Suddenly there would up-shoot hissing tongues of fire, lap themselves round the doomed building, and almost instantly it ceased ?. The fearful roar and rapidity in which the work of destruction was ? on may be readily guessed when it is stated that 52 buildings, covering an area of more than two acres of ground, were reduced to ashes in the short space of two hours

... Shorty after the flames burst out in Mr POWLEY's shop, Mr MATTHEWS and the fire brigade arrived on the scene. It was but a short time before they got their engine in proper order to play upon the burning buildings. Mr ASHER's fire brigade quickly followed. The fire, however, had otained a firm hold, and it was soon proved to be beyond the power of our local fire brigades, with the present scant supply of water in the city, to extinguish the flames.
Within ten minutes of the time when the fire was first observed, the roof of the United Service Hotel was seen to be on fire in three several places, owing to sparks from the fire lodging between the shingles. But a few seconds were required to fan each spark into a flame; and then all became convinced that the conflagration would be of a most destructive character.
By this time there were certainly no less than five thousand spectators occupying every position whence view of the progress of the fire could be obtained. Hundreds of willing colunteers were rendering every assistance they could to clear out the furniture, stock &c., of the several buildings before the fire reached them.
More service might have been rendered in this manner had there been any one to properly direct the abundance of willing labour at hand. As it was some most insane acts were committed

Out of an upper window of one of the premises was hurled a beautiful piano which of course went to pieces on touching the ? roadway beneath. A sideboard, full of beautiful crystal, share a dire fate. Numbers of pictures and large quantities of crockery were similarly dealt with. As the fire spread and the heat increased, the buildings on the Eastern side of Queen-street opposite the burning buildings were seen to be in extreme danger.

... The fire crept steadily onwards against the wind, increasing in intensity and ? every second.
Mr FAREY's shop was rapidly swallowed up, and the shop adoining, occupied by Mr SEYMOUR, greengrocer, shared a similar fate. Then came a vacant shop, formerly known as The Globe Oyster Saloon. This was also speedily reduced to ashes.

About a quarter past 12 o'colock the roof and sides of the premises in which the fire broke out fell in, and immense showers of sparks arose, which were wafted to long distances by the wind. An open space was thus provided for the flames to play with more freedom, and their destructive effects became more apparent.
Next to the Globe Oyster Saloon were the premises occupied by Mr CALNAN, boot and shoemaker. A large quantity of his stock was got out, and piled up on the eastern footpath under the protection of the police.
Next to Mr CALNAN's premises was the shop occupied by Mr K. ?. SCHWARTZE, watchmaker. His shop was also damaged. For some time before the fire reached the shop of Mr SCHWARTZE the occupants of the central Hotel, recently purchsed by Mr PAGE, began to clear out.

... When the southern end of the Central Hotel began to be eaten into, efforts were made to pull down the shop of Mr NEUMEGEN, pawnbroker, which stood immediately to the northward of the Central Hotel. This was found to be a more difficult task than was anticipated, and it soon became known that there was a back wall between Mr NEUMEGEN's shop and the Central Hotel, and that the shop could not be pulled down. There were loud cries from the Fire Brigade to give help at this particular juncture, for it was felt that the fire ought not to be allowed to proceed further northward than this dead wall. Had an engine been brought to the place at this time a very small supply of water would have stayed the progress of desturction in this diection. For fully a quarter of an hour was the progress of the fire arrested here, and the Central Hotel was almost reduced to ashes before the roof of Mr NEUMEGEN's shop, which was composed of shingles, caught fire. The opporunity was neglected, and the result was that some ?5,000 or ?6,000 worth of property was destroyed more than should have been. When the roof of Mr NEUMEGEN's shop caught fire the combustible character of the contents of the buildng, which time had not permitted to remove, soon revived the fire to its former intensity. The shop adjoining Mr NEUMEGEN's was occupied by Mr J. YOUNG, butcher.

As the progress of the fire had hitherto been so rapid and irresistible, sufficient warning had been given to Mr CALEY, baker, and Mr C.B. SMITH, greengrocer, and Mr P. DARBY of the Thistle Hotel, to do what they could in getting their stock and furniture removed
Mr SMITH, whose shop was next to that of Mr YOUNG, got alamost the whole of hs articles out, as also did Mr CALEY. A considerable quantity of Mr DARBY's furntiure was got out in safety, but a good deal was ultimatel consumed. The greater part of his stock was got out safely.

The fire was occupied but for a very short time in eating up the premises occupied by Mr C. B. SMITH, Mr CALEY, and Mr DARBY. The heat at this time was most intense, and drove the spectators to a very considerable distance from the burnng buildings.

Mr DARBY's Hotel was a large square block of building, and when the fire got a firm hold upon it the buildings on the opposite side of Queen-street were in considerable danger. The paint upon their fronts became all blistered, and the water thrown upon them by the Fire Brigade was instantly vaporised.
The deficiency of the supply of water at this stage was plainly visible. When the men had pumped for a short time they were obliged to cease work until the water had filtered again in the dam of the engine. During this cessation of work the action of the heat upon the buildings on the eastern side of the street was truly wonderful. Almost as soon as the flow of water eased the roofs and fronts of the shops began to smoke furiously, which was only stopped by water again being applied. It was with the utmost difficulty that the members of the Brigade and others succeeded in preventing the buildings north of the Savings Bank breaking out into flame. As Mr DARBY's Hotel gradually sank before the ravages of the fire the small buidings to the westward of it caught fire. The various out-offices belonging to the hotel were consumed. The workshop of Mr CURRIE, coach and wheelwright, which was situated behind the hotel, and in front of Messrs WHITSON and sons brewery, had a very narrow escap

... At this time the Albert Brewery of Messrs R. WHITSON and Sons was almost enveloped in a solid sheet of flame, and many were the predictions that it could not stand. Many of the little windows opening on to the various floors in the building were burned out. At the first outbreakout of the fire, steam was got up, and the engine of the brewery set to work the pumps. Each floor of the large premises was kept flooded with water, and although occasionally tongues of flame went hissing in through the burned out windows an abundant supply of water direted by steam power was more than a match for the fire. The severity of the ordeal to which this building was subjected may be conceived when it is remembered that the flames from nearly a dozen separate buildings, together with some five tons of firewood and coal lying almost close to the brewery, were lapped against it with the utmost energy by the strong wind which was blowing at this time. The men inside manfully discharged their duty, and kept the streams ejected by steam force to every point of danger, altough they were for some time almost completely surrounded by a seething, roaring ocean of flame. It is stated that the walls of the building to-day are as sound as ever they were.

... At 2 o'clock a.m. the destruction of Mr DARBY's hotel was complete. From the workshops of Mr CURRIE the fire seemed inclined to travel across what is known as the Ligar Canal to the houses on the east side of Elliott-street. When this was observed Mr DARBY and others set to work and pulled down the fence by which the fire was creeping along. This being done, and a little water thrown upon the side of the Elliott-street dwellings nearest to the fire, averted any furthr danger in that direction

... So far the progress of the fire in a northerly direction has only been dealt with. We now follow its course towards the New Market. A strong north-east wind was blowing, and the flames were quickly communicated to JAMIESON's boot shop. Mr JAMIESON, however, saw the danger and, with assistance, he managed to save the whole of his stock. The buidings were all of wood, and the wind carried the sparks on the roofs. The consequence was that, before the fire had reached the Unite Service Hotel, WEBB's Music Saloon (containing the wax-works), in Wellesley-street, was on fire.

By half-past 12 o'clock no fewer than five shops had been consumed, viz, POWLEY's, JAMIESON's, MATHIESONS's, BROAD's and GREY's. Every effort was used by the firemen to stay the onward progress of the devouring element, but, on account of the scarcity of water, their efforts were in vain.

The shops of BLAIR and LAMBERT (grocers) and STREETER (butcher), contained much unflammable matter, and after blazing furiously for a few minutes, they disappered.

It is said that the inmates of the United Service Hotel were not aware of the existence of the fire until three or four houses had been consumed, and the flames were greedily devouring BLAIR and LAMBERT's shop.
Myriads of sparks were carried by the wind as far as St. James's Church, Wellington-street, and they were constantly falling on the roofs of many houses in a direct line between the church and the scene of the fire. The hotel burned for about half an hour, Mr HANCOCK, however, being able to save a portion of his property. Much sympathy is expressed for Mr HANCOCK. It is stated that he received nearly ?700 ($85,700 in 2011) worth of stock about a week ago which he had not insured.

In the meantime, as before stated, WEBB's Music Saloon, in which the wax figures had been placed on exhibition had caught. The wind had quickly wafted the flames to the adjoining houses. It is stated that the whole of the wax figures were removed in safety.

The Aberdeen Boot Factory was the next victim, followed by FRANCIS's tinsmith's shop and ROBINSON's boot factory. ? efforts were made to save the premises occupied by MUIR (grocer), POSSENISKIE (tailor), and BUTTERWORTH (dressmaker), but in vain. The fire had gained too srong a hold to be easily put down, or, in fact, to be put down at all wth the appliances at hand.

From BUTTERWORTH's the fire took to Mr WALL's private resiene in Elliot-street. This house was completely burned, but a small house next door to WALL's was saved, and the fire prevented from spreading, by a few brave men whose courage should not be forgotten. The whole of the buildings destroyed between WEBB's saloon and the house that was saved belonged to Mr WALL amd were insured in the Royal Insurance Company for ?600.

... The alarm was sounded that the shingles on COUPLAND's hay-store and stables, at the rear of his corrugated iron-shed, were on fire. And this was found, unfortunately, to be too true. The old shingles had caught fire in several places, and the fire brigades were too busily occupied in Queen and Wellesely-streets to give to this new danger the slightest attention. Happily before the timbers had becoe ignited to any serious extent Mr COUPLAND and his assistants had liberated and led out the horses, and had also, it is believed, saved some of the chaff machines. Mr COUPLAND is a greater loser by the accident occurring at the presnt time than he would have been only a day or so previous, as only on Saturday last he had received in store a large quantity of potatoes, which will of course be roasted. It is said that Mr COUPLAND was insured in the Norwich Union for ?300 or ?400.

For a long time a jet of flame over the second storey window at WILLIAMS's, the saw-sharpener's shop, baffled all the efforts of the brigade to reach it. The miserable squirt of water which came from the Domain supply would reach slightly over the top of the verandah, and would as suddenly stop from a burst in the pipe or other unforseen casualty. Mr DAVIS sprang on to WILLIAMS's signboard, and receiving a push from Mr MORRIN, scrambled on to the roof. Buckets of water were then hauled up by means of a rope, and the flames extinguished, but whilst all this was being done, and the fire mastered in this quarter, the flames on COUPLAND's hay-store had communicated with the stabling, and thence, unnoticed, insidiously crept along the dividing fences and communicated with SHEDDAN's co-operage in Wellesley-street. Here the fire seized upon the dry wood in the building with startling avidity and quickly gutted the shop. COUPLAND's corrugated store, containing produce, on the west side of SHEDDAN's was quickly in flames, and on the east side of SHEDDAN's the entire weather-boards of WARD's shop became quickly ignited. The roof was of cirrugated iron, but slowly and surely the devouring element forced its way, partly against the wind, and its progress to the corner was only a matter of a very few moments.

Meantime it was found that not only had the wooden dividing fence carried the fire to SHEDDAN's place, from COUPLAND's hay store, but by a similar means the flames had commnicated with MARSH's and SAUNDERS's back premises.

Seeing the irresistible progress of the fire towards the new Market-house, his Worship the Mayor gave immediate orders for a number of axes, to be procured form J. and J. DICKEY'S, ironmongers, for the purpose of pulling down as much as possible of LENDRUM's stables, so dangerously near to the east end of this not unimposing cruciform structure. Despite the willing hands, however, wielding the axes, scarely any appreciable damage had been done before the flames came tearing along, and enveloped the whole block in one grand yet deeply saddening conflagration.

It is grevious to learn that of the many fine works of art contained in Mr BARTLETT's atelier, scarcely one has been saved, and the whole of his negatives, 1,500 in number, perished with the flames. Mr BARTLETT resides at the North Shore, and could not, consequently, give any assistance in the removal of his choicest treasures. Only a few of his cameras were saved by his assistants, and one or two pictures. An insuracce on the general stock-in-trade was in existence in the Victoria company for ?500, but it is believed the insurance on the negatives had been allowed to lapse.

Mr MORRIS MARKS rescued, it is stated, a great portion of his large stock of unredeened pledges; although at one time it is asserted the removal was prohibited by the representative of the Victoria, in which office the goods were insured. This order was ultimately rescinded.
The Chinese proprietor of the Auckland Tea Consumrs Co., AH KEW, managed to save a portion of his Lares and Penates, but left the greater portion of his stock of dried fungus on the pavement on the opposite side of Queen-street.

Some of Mrs DUNNING's greengrocery shared the same fate. Ah KEW was insued for ?200 in the South British. The building belonged to Mr CRANWELL, sen.

It is feared that Mr MARSH did not save much of his merchandise. When the fire had caught the back premises his mart appeared as full as ever of goods. Whether this was due to a similar order from an insurance agent to that given to Mr MARKS we do not know. The premises belonged to Mr G. Von der HEYDE and were insured for ?250 in the Victoria Company. The stock it is stated, was insured in the Norwich for ?400.

Mr SAUNDERS was not insured, although it is represented that he had over ?2,000 worth of stock in his premises when the fire first commenced. He objecte to the rate of isurance which an agent had requestd him to pay, and consequently stood aloof, and relied upon his ability to clear out at a few moments notice when an alarm of fire might be given. Heavy values of tweeds and doe-skins are compressed in small rolls, and from the fact of Mr SAUNDERS being seen carrying pots of flowers across the street from his premises he may safely be congratulated on having removed his stok in trade and furniture before his premises were reached by the fire.

The billiard-table at the Anchor Hotel was saved, though somehat damaged, it is to be feared, from its hasty removal. Other portions of the furniture were saved, but seriously damaged in removal.

... When it was seen that the fire was travelling in the direction of the Market a rush was made for that place by a few of the stallholders and others who had property there, and the northern door was broken open. At this time the sparks were falling in clouds on the top and around the building, and it was feared that the woodwork would catch fire. On opening the door it was discovered that sparks were finding their way in great profusion into the interior of the place through the Louvre boards. A large amount of property was taken outside and deposited in places of safety. A hose was obtained, and water was thrown off the Queen-street front of the Market-house, and although the force of water applied was not very great, still the safety of the builing may be attributed to the fact that water was applied, and that so much of the building was constructed of corrugated iron. The wood work under the clock is literally black, and the windows on the same side are gone. However, the building is safe, and the above-mentioned is the only damage done. It may be intimated that the Market-house is insured in the South British Insurance Company for ?4,000. It is scarcely needful to mention that if the Market-house had caught fire, the carriage factories of Messrs GEE and POTTER and CONSINS and ATKIN, would alo have been destroyed. As it was these firms had to keep the whole of their employees at work in order to extinguish the sparks as they fel on the roofs of their buildings.

... Several times the buildings on the east side of Queen-street were in imminent anger of becoming ignited, but by means of wet blankets, buckets of water, and willing arms, nothing serious occurred. The heat was so intense, however, that men on the verandahs of houses were driven away, and the blankets stretched over the windows were actually singed brown by the heat. There was scarcely a window on the east side of Queen-street which was not covered by blankets, which at intervals were drenched with water. When the United Service Hotel was burning, CASS's draper's shop appeared in extreme danger, and Mr CASS removed the whole of his stock at once to a place of safety. The window of several shops, including thos of SMART and Co., and Mr McLAUGHLIN draper, were shattered by the extreme heat.

The wndows of the Pacific Hotel were also damaged very much. Every praise is due to Messrs HOOPER and Co, brewers, for placing their water at the service of their neighbours and indeed so generous had Mr HOOPER been that had his own place become ignited he would mot have ha enough to protect himself.

The shop of Mr MARKS, pawnbroker was in great danger throughout, the heat being so intense that the shingle would, at any moment burst into flames.

... The following is believed to be a correct list of the buildings totally destroyed:-


ALEY's watchmakers shop
BARNETT's porkbutchers shop
BARTLETT's photographic studio
BLAIR and LAMBERT's grocers shop
BROAD, locksmith
BROOK's shoemakers shop
CALEY's bakers shop
CALLNAN's boot shop
CANTERBURY Oyster Saloon
DARBY's Thistle Hotel
De WOLF's eating house
DUNNING's greengrocers shop
FAREY's grocers shop
FOURMER's watchmakers shop
GLOBE Oyster Saloon
GREY's confectioners shop
HANCOCK's United Service Hotel
HANDERSON's boot shop
HEMUS's boot shop
LENDRUM's stables (behind Williams's)
MARSH and Co's grocer
- with bakehouse and stable behind
MARKS' pawnbrokers shop
MATHESON's confectioners shop
H. NEUMEGEN's pawnbrokers shop
PAGE's Central Hotel
POWLEY's millinery establishment
SAUNERS's tailor shop
R. G. SCHWARTZ's jewellers shop
SEYMOUR's greengrocers shop
C. B SMITH's greengrocera ahop
STREETER's butcher shop
WATSON's grocers shop
WILLIAM's Anchor Hotel
J. YOUNG'S butcher shop


ABERDEEN boot factory
ADAM's saddlers shop
BURT's grocers shop
BUTTERWORTH's dressmaking establishment
COUPLAND's produce store
- with hay loft and stable
FRANCIS's tinsmiths shop
JONES's musical instrument shop
MUIR's grocers shop
H. L. POSSENISKIE's tailors shop
ROBINSON's boot factory
SHEDDAN's cooperage
WARD's painters shop
WEBB's music saloon
- occupied by wax work exhibition
WILLIAMS's umbrella repairing shop


Mr WALL's private dwelling

We classify the property destroyed as follows -

1 UMBRELLA repair shop

Queen street 1860
- Looking north down Queen Street showing the site of the Bank of New Zealand

by ngairedith Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2012-02-25 04:58:50

ngairedith has been a Family Tree Circles member since Feb 2008.

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