From Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project
- THE CONFLAGRATION ON THE MAIN ROAD.
- The morning of the 11th January, 1861, will long be remembered as a sad epoch in the annals of Ballarat. Sixty buildings, including shops and stores, two theatres, &c, either burned down or gutted, and some forty others seriously damaged, and a loss of property estimated at £50,000, with scores of families houseless and pennyless, is sufficient to cast a gloom over the whole town, east and west, such as never before has been experienced, women and children flying in the dead of night, to wherever they could find temporary shelter-are all sufficient to awaken our best feelings and enlist our sympathies in favor of the unfortunate sufferers, and share in the general feeling of despondency and commiseration that obtains in all quarters of the town, especially for those who have lost their all by the devastating element. In the midst of these trials and sufferings it is refreshing to behold the feeling of self-reliance which animates some of the sufferers who have already taken steps to erect business premises on the sites of those just burned down; and foremost among these are Mr Smith, of the Montezuma, Dr Hobson, who has already contracted for a brick structure, and Mr Symons, of the ill-fated "old Charlie," who states that like a Phoenix, another building shall arise from the ashes of the former one. These men seem to bear their losses philosophically, and in thinking of the future seem to ignore the past.
- With regard to the origin of the fire it yet appears to be enveloped in mystery, although Mr Smith states that he is positive the fire broke out in the property room of the Montezuma Theatre, and that it must have been the work of an incendiary, as when he beheld the fire it was confined to that part of the premises. Others assert that it broke out in the tobacconist shop at the corner of the block of buildings, but which of the stories is correct we are not in a position to decide. At all events, the fire reached the street first through the tobacconist's, and it was the first erection that gave way before the invader. All of the houses on the side of the street opposite to that on which the fire broke out have been more or less injured, especially the Golden Age Hotel, the Old House at Home, the Star Hotel, and the Royal Mail Hotel. The fire several times caught the two latter, but the indefatigable hose-men as often extinguished the blaze. The appearance of the street on Friday morning, and indeed the whole of the shops, stores, &c., on that side of the street, was proof positive of the narrow escape which they had from destruction. The plate glass windows in the Star Hotel were completely destroyed; the windows of the Royal Mail were also broken, as indeed were the whole of the windows of the shops in their vicinity. In some instances we have heard of the rabble, who are always to be found when the work of destruction is going on, forcing their way into premises where they had no business, such as the United States Hotel, and helping themselves despite the barman, at the taps, &c. Some person stole a gold watch and chain from the chimney piece of Raphael Brothers, and the police apprehended some fellows with boots &c. in their possession. Conduct such as this deserves the reprobation of every person in the community. The Eastern Fire Brigade continued to pour a sheet of water on the burning debris up to 10 o'clock yesterday morning, while the houseless sufferers were engaged in collecting together, whatever little property might be found in the ruins of their former homes. Horses and carts were flying in all directions with the remnant that had escaped the flames, and many of the untenanted houses on the Main Road, in the vicinity of the Rock of Cashel, found ready occupants. As we remarked in our previous issue, nearly a quarter of a mile of ground in length was occupied by the houses burned down, and in all that extent of ground there was but one brick building, namely, the Shakspeare Hotel, which very recently was occupied by some Chinamen as a restaurant, and the back buildings of this were even composed of wood. Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the fire spread with such velocity, and that building after building fell a prey to the devastating element in the short space of one hour and a half. In fact the flames licked up one tenement after the other as if they had been stubble, and ceased not in their destructive career until checked by the brick wall of Mr Jones' Criterion Store, on one end, and the pulling down of a building, and a copious supply of water from buckets and hose, on the other. What was once a busy mart of trade and industry is now a charred mass of rubbish, and brick chimneys, like so many monuments of the devastation that has been made, spring upwards, looking down upon the sad and sorrowful scene below. Many of the sufferers were uninsured, although they have made repeated applications to some of the insurance offices, the agents of which evince a decided repugnance to insure house property on the "Flat." Among these is Mr Simmons, who has lost everything he possessed. We hear that the policy of insurance on the Union Jack store arrived from Melbourne on the morning of the fire, and others we hear had only just completed their insurance. One or two persons received slight bruises during the fire, but happily no injury of a serious nature occurred. Several dogs were burned, and a horse that was in some back premises left by a gentleman in the care of Mr Bell, Clerk of Petty Sessions, is missing. Fowls innumerable were destroyed, independent of a variety of pet animals and some goats. A patrol of mounted and foot police were on duty on the Main road on Friday for the protection of property. The telegraph wires which had been melted down near the Montezuma Hotel were repaired early on Friday morning, and the telegraph master issued a notice stating that communication with all parts of the colony was uninterrupted. The insurance offices that are sufferers by the fire are the Melbourne, the Australasian, the Colonial, the Victoria, and the Queen, the latter to a very, trifling extent, and the first considerably.
- The following are the names of the persons whose houses were destroyed: Raphael Brothers, clothiers, pulled down. The insurance on this building expired on the 7th inst, and Mr Farley, the landlord, declined to renew it.
- Charles Franz, tin shop, ironmongery, partially down, not insured, family in a very bad state of health.
- Margaret Oxford, confectionery, not insured.
- Lucas & Co., general store, not insured.
- Turner & Hoey, drapery, &c, insured in the Melbourne Office for £700.
- George Heath, stationer, post office, Sec., insured in the Victoria for £450, and in the Australasian for £250.
- Michael Levi, pawnbroker and jeweller, uninsured.
- Henry Farley, greengrocery.
- John Gellatly, saddler and harness maker, not insured.
- B. Payne, North British Hotel, insured in the Colonial Office for £350.
- O'Farrell & Son, sales yard, not insured.
- Anne Plummer, Greenock Hotel, stock insured in the Colonial Office for £200, and the building by D. Jones, owner, in the Melbourne Office for £700.
- Grimlett & Hambly, boot and shoe establishment, not insured.
- James Service & Co., old police court, unoccupied, insured for £600 in the Melbourne Office.
- T. B. Smith, Montezuma Hotel and Theatre, (owners Sweeney Brothers) uninsured.
- Frederick Luhning, tobacconist; not insured.
- Mr Evans, Shakspeare Hotel; building insured in the Colonial for £500.
- Quong Hoi Loo, Chinese general store; not insured
- Thomas Pope, fancy bazaar; not insured. Wm. A. Blair, hatter, &c.
- Mr Whitten, boot and shoe shop; insured in the Victoria for £150 on stock, and £500 on the building.
- B. Grove, unoccupied.
- John Skardon, boot and shoe shop; said not to be insured. (The above three buildings were insured in the Melbourne office for £400.)
- Simon Cohen, pawn office and jeweller; insured for £500 in the Colonial office on building and stock.
- Hop Cheong Chinese store; not insured.
- Holdsworth, fruiterer; not insured.
- Thomas Carrick, boot and shoe store; not insured.
- Abraham Morwitch, Great Britain Hotel; not insured.
- Jane Clayton, fruit store; not insured.
- John & Thomas Anwyl, drapery, &c. establishment; insured in the Colonial office for £400 on building, and £300 on stock, and in the Queen Life and Fire office for £600, and in the Melbourne office for £1000.
- Frederick Price, Cornwall Arms; uninsured.
- George Woodgate, dining rooms, owner Mr Banker of Melbourne; building insured for £200.
- Bruce Speed, bakery and general store;
- insured in the Colonial for £300.
- Mr Ward, fruiterer's shop; not insured.
- A. B. Simmons, general store, uninsured.
- R. Jones Hobson, chemist's shop, &c. ; insured for £300 in the Colonial office, and £400 in the Australasian.
- Palmer Brothers, Sebastopol Brewery; insured in the Melbourne office for £500 on building.
- Alexander Hill, Eastern Dining Rooms; not insured.
- Goodman (Meanowski) tobacconist; insured for £250 in the Melbourne office.
- Martin Bade, tobacconist, &c; not insured.
- Robertson & Graham, billiard rooms; not insured.
- Edward Cantor, butcher; not insured.
- Sydney Abraham, building insured for £200 in the Colonial office.
- Daniel Symons, Charlie Napier Hotel, theatre, and cafe; insured in the Colonial for £300, and the building by Messrs Lazarus & Levinger in the Melbourne Insurance office for £500.
- David Jones, Criterion Store; insured in the Victorian office for £1000, Colonial £2000, Australasian £2000, and Melbourne office £1000. Premises partly destroyed and partly gutted. There was a large amount of salvage.
- George Hathorn, United States Hotel; partial damage, destruction of liquors, &c.
- Bernstein & Co., Little Wonder Store; verandah and front partly pulled down: insured in the Colonial office, stock £300, building £150.
- Mr Hayden, fruiterer; verandah pulled down.
- Lister & Angel, fruit shop, and two others adjoining, partly pulled down.
- Henry Lyte, Thos. Cox, Miss Brown, milliner; Samuel Isaacs, upholsterer; Messrs Lazarus, auctioneers ; and Mr M'Ivor, of the John o'Groat HotelLink title, also suffered damage by some of their windows being pulled down, &c.
- We are assured by Mr A. P. Bowes, that were it not for the exertions of Messrs Rees, Boyd, and Allen, his premises, known as the Horse Bazaar, and nearly opposite O'Farrell's Saleyards, would have been completely destroyed. Exertions such as were made by the persons alluded to were the rule, and not the exception, during the fire, as the firemen generally appeared to have a total disregard for their own safety. They mounted burning roofs with alacrity, passed buckets of water from one to the other, and did everything they could to stay the progress of the fire. Nor were the members of one Brigade alone conspicuous for their deeds of daring, as the members of both seemed to vie with each other as to who would be the most useful. There was an absence of arrangement, however, among the members, which was apparent to every one present; but no doubt this laxity of discipline will be remedied in future. There was an unusually excellent supply of water-thanks to the Municipal Councils for the catch water drains which they got cut round the Swamp. The Gas Company are severe losers by the unfortunate occurrence, as nearly all of the houses destroyed were supplied with meters, which were rendered all but useless by the action of the fire.
- A meeting of the local insurance agents was held in the office of Messrs R. & S. Gibbs, at half-past twelve o'clock on Friday and steps taken to secure and take charge of the salvage property which will be considerable, especially at the Criterion Store. They also inspected the various partially burned premises, and the outhouses where goods were piled, and an inventory of all that was saved was to have been taken during the day.
- ↑ Ballarat Star, 12 January 1861.
--Beth Kicinski 11:09, 25 August 2014 (EST)