The Old Baginton Hall
Great Fire at Baginton Hall - October 9, 1889.
Intelligence was received at Coventry on Monday morning about twenty minutes to eleven that Baginton Hall was on fire. All that the messenger, a groom named Everitt, could say, for he was breathless with hard riding, was that a cask of paraffin had caught fire in the lamp room, and that the flames were spreading rapidly. Inspector Wyatt, who was on duty at the police station, telephoned immediately for four horses from Mr. Camwell's to horse the steam fire engine, and despatched all the available constables to call the members of the Fire Brigade. In about five minutes the steamer was ready to start, and Deputy-Captain Liggins who had been fetched from a meeting of the Market Hall Committee, took command.
The news of the fire spread quickly, and a number of persons set out on foot for the scene. The Coventry Fire Brigade reached Baginton about five minutes past eleven, and the serious nature of the conflagration was at once seen. It would appear that the petroleum for the use of the entire house is stored in the basement underneath the drawing-room, the cellar being so dark that a light is required when any work is done therein. About ten o'clock on Monday morning one of the men was getting a supply or oil, when it caught fire, and the cellar was instantaneously in a blaze. The flames soon broke out from the storeroom windows in the basement, under the breakfast room, at the east front of the building. Already the servants, assisted by the neighbouring farmers, ware busy removing the valuable oil paintings, the grand old furniture, and other treasures. The plate, which is very costly, was early removed to a place of safety. Amongst the foremost arrivals to render assistance was the rector of the parish, the Rev. B. G. Gronow, Messrs. Hulme (Village Farm), E. Lucas, Captain-Commandant of the Leuville Life Saving Brigade (Home Farm), J.Bostock (Baginton Lodge), Barnwell (Baginton), Grimes (Bubbenhall), Hawkes (Stoneleigh), & c. Immediately after the arrival of the Coventry Brigade, a detachment of the I Battery 2nd. Brigade Royal Artillery, galloped up to the Hall, from the Coventry Barracks, under the direction of Lieut. Younge Bateman, and energetically set to work in removing the furniture from the upper stories. The lawn in front of the house, with its splendid avenue of trees stretching away down parallel with the Bubbenhall Road, was piled with a miscellaneous assortment of goods from the interior of the Hall. Pictures, books, a large billiard table, dining and drawing room suites were quickly handed out through the large windows on the ground floor and hastily deposited on the terrace.
The wind blew in strong gusts, fanning the flames, which spread with fearful rapidity. Up through the floor of the breakfast room, bursting out at the window on the north side of the massive portico, the fire raged and the workers were driven to the south end of the building. At the gables at either end and at the west front of the house the task of clearing the bedrooms could be prosecuted with safety for some time. Rapidly the fire spread upwards, window after window falling in with loud crashes, and the flames darting out drove the spectators back off the terrace, down the grassy slope to the lawn. The wind blew the flames out from the house in long forked tongues, and the showers of sparks falling on the terrace and lawn compelled a hasty removal of the goods placed there to more distant spots. It was thought that the fire might be restricted to the part of the house where it originated, but this proved impossible. The Coventry men had ran their steamer down to the side of the nearest pool of water—a pool well known for its good angling sport—hut this, unfortunately, was a distance of 400 yards away from the burning pile. Yet the distance would have offered but little obstacle to a speedy service of water had not the hose to travel over a steep piece of rising ground. The engine pumped under good pressure, but despite the efforts made, the water could not be forced over the brow of the hill.
No other engine had then arrived to carry on the service and the flames raged and roared unhindered until the whole building became like a seething furnace. Deputy Captain Liggins who had been relieved of command, by Captain Thomas, mounted a horse and galloped to Coventry for more hose, to bring along the old engine, and to telegraph for further assistance from Warwick. Mounted messengers had been despatched for other neighbouring brigades.
For some time nothing could be done but watch the terrible progress of the flames. At last a cheer greeted the first jet of water on the north gable by the Coventry men. By various devices they had ‘coaxed’ current the water over the hill, for no other engine had yet arrived. By this time the flames were extending to the roof. and the molten lead began to pour down in streams. Through the wrecked windows portions of bedsteads and bureaus could be seen. One room in particular in the second floor at the rear of the Hall seemed charmed, for it stood intact for a long time after the surrounding rooms had been completely gutted. Its turn came at last, and the magnificent mahogany bedstead, with its heavy hangings, was destroyed in a moment.
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