As reported in the Hampshire Telegraph of 16th January 1864
ALARMING FIRE AND GREAT DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY AT PORTSMOUTH
On Wednesday evening, about half-past six o'clock, a great fire broke out on the extensive brewery premises of Messrs. Pike, Spicer, & Co., in Penny street and Barrack-street, Portsmouth. The range of buildings owned by this firm occupy a very large area, and comprise stores, vaults, machine rooms, and commodious brewhouses. At the High-street end of Barrack-street, and in the rear of the premises occupied by Messrs. R. P. & G. Dugan, outfitters and woollen drapers, was recently built a large square block, towering above the surrounding premises, and which extends round Penny-street, where it is connected (over an archway) with another four-storey block, containing the whole of the brewing plant, including large and expensive coppers, mash vat, &c., the upper stories of which consisted of malt stores. Immediately adjoining this was the machinery department which consisted of a newly-erected and substantially built building; and, abutting this, ranged an extensive block of cooling rooms, the basement of which formed the cellars, and near to them are the spirit stores. Immediately to the left of the archway in Pennny-street was the entrance to the stables, and adjoining, on the basement of the new block, were stores intended for spirits, whilst above these stores in the same block ranged three stories of rooms intended for malt and hop stores, but which, fortunately, at the time of the fire, contained only chaff and provender. The whole building was supported by massive cast-iron columns, with iron beams and rafters, which afforded much strength to the building, and no doubt, sustained the outside walls, and thus saved life and property. Immediately above the archway were several room, containing malt &c., in one of which (termed the "pattern loft") the fire is supposed to have originated, but how or by what means is still a mystery. The discovery of the fire is said to have been first made by a person in the service of the firm, who immediately communicated the fact to Captain Evelegh, the head of the establishment, and this gentleman, with an amount of collectedness which was surprising under the circumstances, proceeded without the slightest delay to make such arrangements as suggested themselves, with the view of protecting the property of himself and neighbours, and of confining the fire to the scene of its origin. The whole town was soon in a great state of excitement. Thousands of the inhabitants of the outlying districts flocked into the town until all the approaches were impassable; and, to prevent the loss of life and interference with those who had charge of the engines, it was deemed expedient to close the gates, on the outside of which some thousands of persons were very speedily congregated. The scene which in a few moments presented itself was unequalled by any similar occurence in the borough for many years. The fire bell was set in motion, and the Port Admiral (Sir M. Seymour) himself proceeded on board the Victory, and directed that three guns should be fired, summoning men from the different ships to render assistance. In the meantime active preparations had been made by the different local authorities. At the Cambridge Barracks the men of the 53rd Regiment (who were the "fire party," as it is termed, for the week,) were speedily mustered by the bugler, and about 500 of them at once proceeded thither with their own engine, accompanied by Lieut.-Col. F. English, C.B., who was particularly energetic in the important service he rendered. This engine (under the command of Quartermaster Thomas Marshall) was the first on the spot, and, as water was plentiful, the engines were soon got to work. Captain G.N. Fendall (who, as the field officer of the day, was mounted) at once proceeded to obtain the engine of the 26th Regiment (stationed at the Clarence Barracks) and that of the 1st Royals (stationed at the Anglesea Barracks), both of which were without delay, on the spot, and; manned by men of the 55th Regiment, continued to pour volumes of water into the burning mass, under the direction of Capt. R.H. Truell, Capt. A.K. Efrench, Capt. W.F.A. Colman, Adjutant S.J. Nicholls and other officers, whilst 50 of the men, fully equipped, were posted as sentries to preserve order. The borough engine arrived second, under the command of Inspector Mew, accompanied by Mr. Superintendent Barber, and it was posted in the High-street, the object being to prevent the ignition of Messrs. Dugan's house, which was in great jeopardy. To secure this end the hose (of which there was an abundance) was carried up Barrack-street, thence on top of a house occupied by the brewery carter, which commanded the whole range of the new building, over which, though of great height, the water in volumes was poured. Nearly the whole of the police force were present, with Inspectors Mew, Gibbs, and Bone, and the engine rendered very efficient aid. Shortly after this an engine arrived from the Dockyard, under the direction of Chief Inspector King, who directed his attention to the same spot, having at once perceived the dangeer which threatened the whole of the surrounding property. Seeing that more help was necessary he sent for another engine, which also rendered efficient service. Accompanying these engines, in addition to the chief inspector, were Inspectors Godden and Burke, with seven sergeants and 48 men, all of whom exerted themselves in a most praiseworthy manner. In addition to these were several hundreds of men from the Victory; Duke of Wellington, and Asia, provided with buckets, and under the command of their respective officers, conspicuous amongst whom were Captain J. Seccombe (of the Duke of Wellington), Captain F. Scott, C.B. (of the Victory), Captain H. W. Hire (of the Orontes), who rendered much valuable aid, and performed such services as could scarcely have been rendered by any other class of men. Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., was also on the spot, and was very earnest in his desire to be of service. By this time the fire had assumed an alarming appearance, and to prevent the flames extending to the spirit stores the whole available strength was used to break the connection between the new and old building in Penny-street. The alarm, as may be imagined, at this juncture was intense, for if those stores had once ignited the probability is that the barracks and gaol would have been burnt to the ground, as well as the private property contiguous thereto. To accomplish this was a work of no ordinary character, and called forth the almost superhuman exertions of the men, under the direction of Capt. Evelegh, by whom large pieces of burning timber and brickwork were removed, which, to a certain extent, effected the object contemplated. The fire, however, in spite of this, continued to rage, igniting the brewhouse, and completely destroying the malt store, with its contents, consisting of about 300 quarters, the greater portion of which had only been delivered a few days previously. Here an event occured but for which the whole of the machinery would have been destroyed. The malt, at this point, appears to have fallen from its position to the boiler, thus preserving it from the fire. The brew-house and stores contiguous thereto, however, continued to burn with unabated fury, the fire having complete and unconquerable possession of the whole block above the gateway, from which it appears that the flames communicated with the new building, passing thence in violence to the stables beneath, and threatening the destruction of nine valuable horses. With a slight resistance these were removed, and attention was again directed to the burning mass, which now assumed an appearance rarely, if ever, beheld in this town and neighbourhood. From the height and extent of the building it presented an awfully grand spectacle and illuminated the neighbourhood for miles round. The fire continued to burn with unabated fury for some time, until the roof of the new building fell in with a crash, thus confining the volumes within the massive walls, which have not given way in the slightest degree. The fire was so far got under control by ten o'clock as to dispel any cause for serious alarm, and the engines were vithdrawn, but towards midnight Captain Evelegh found it necessary to send for the Royal Artillery engine, which came to the spot, accompanied by about 150 men, and continued to play until four o'clock, when all fears were at an end. We regret to state that the loss is very considerable. The whole brewing plant is destroyed, which will thus stop all operations for some time to come. The actual loss, however, is not yet known, although it has been variously estimated at from 10,000l. to 15,000l.; but there is every reason to hope that the lesser sum will cover it. The property is, we understand, fully insured in the Guardian Fire Office, to which the insurance has been but recently transferred. Messrs. Dugan have sustained some injury occasioned by water and the removal of their goods, but to no great extent, as their gross loss is estimated at not more than 40l. or 50l., which will fall conjointly upon the Union and Norwich Union Fire Offices. We cannot conclude without conveying the general approbation which has been expressed in reference to the exertions of the various fire brigades that were employed. They worked with right hearty good will, and were equal to the emergency. We are happy to state that but one accident has been officially reported, and this occurred to P.C. Hall. It appears that he was directing the hose connected with the borough engine, when, by some means, the strap which secured it broke, causing him to fall back, which slightly dislocated his left shoulder. He was, however, but slightly injured, and is recovering.