by Kevin Matthias
Here follows a report of the fire that destroyed Mold Cotton Mill which stood on the site which the Synthite factory now occupies on the Denbigh Road.
Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser 9 November 1866
ALARMING FIRE.—TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF THE COTTON MILL. On Thursday morning last, between four and five o’clock, the cotton mill occupied by Messrs Bateson, at Rhydygoleu, was discovered to be on fire, the flames at that time proceeding out of the windows of the store rooms, on the second floor, where a large quantity of cotton was stored, and in a short time nearly the whole mass of building were in flames…The town engine and an engine belonging to the proprietors of the mill were on the spot at an early hour, but the fire had gained such hoi J, and the storm was so raging that nothing could be attempted towards saving the mill. About seven o’clock the engines were brought to play upon the sheds and the engine rooms, and it is estimated that about one thousand pounds’ worth of property was saved by the eflort… The mill was the property of Mr Gregg, and Messrs Bateson had a lease for ten years on the premises, six of which have expired. The sad accident has caused quite a gloom in the town, as the loss will be felt very extensively, the number of hands employed reaching to 220 men, girls, and boys.
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It seems Mold fire Brigade Mold Fire brigade played its part in trying to extinguish the disastrous fire at Mold’s cotton mill on 8 November 1866 described above. It had come in for criticism about a fortnight before (on 12 October) when there had been a fire in outbuildings belonging to the Star Inn at Mold Cross. Fortunately that was not a serious outbreak as, according to the Wrexham Advertiser, the fire brigade turned up then without a hose or buckets. The newspaper continues:
The question of protection to life and property in case of fire, is an important one to the inhabitants of Wrexham, Mold, and other towns in this district. The existence of a Fire Brigade and Engines conduces to an imaginary feeling of security which may have no foundation in fact. …An Engine, unless accompanied by the necessary appointments, must necessarily prove worse than useless to a Town, as it causes a feeling of quiet repose and confidence in a protecting power which does not exist. Fortunately the fire at Mold occurred in outbuildings and life was not endangered, and we hope it will be productive of beneficial results in the shape of a Fire Brigade with the necessary equipments, feeling certain that if the inhabitants are ready withthe necessary funds for putting the Brigade in an effective position, Mold contains a number of young men ready to volunteer and undergo the necessary drill, and thus guarantee that security to life and property which it appears does not now exist. If the Local Board would take the initiative, we should soon see a Volunteer Brigade organised.
Wrexham Advertiser 20 October 1866
The report implies that there was no effective fire brigade in Mold in 1866 even though Sergeant Major J P Kennair of the Flint militia had been appointed as Surveyor and rate collector of Mold Local Board and the first Superintendent of the fire brigade in early 1859. The brigade was to consist of ten men who were to be paid one shilling each ‘to exercise the fire engine’ and to be out for two hours each time once a month for the next six months. In addition, the minutes of the Local Board ordered that ‘the room given by Mr Eyton in which to keep the engine be fitted up in a proper manner…’ . Mr Eyton was possibly John Wynne-Eyton, squire of Leeswood Hall. Kennair who lived in Oak Villa, Wrexham Street, retired or was dismissed in 1871 and later ran a pawn shop in the town. He died in 1875.
Subsequently to 1866, attempts had apparently been made to raise and equip a permanent volunteer fire brigade in Mold but these had not met with success. In February 1877 the Hon. Sec of the Mold Voluntary Fire Brigade, D LLOYD MORGAN, wrote to the Local Board in answer to a request for information on any progress:
26th February 1877
I am instructed to inform you that the Fire Brigade is, at present, at a standstill for want of pecuniary support. Estimates have been obtained for clothing for members of the Fire Brigade, which would amount to £55; fittings for men, engine, &c., £35 making a total outlay required £90. Against this subscriptions have been promised to the amount of £25, of which £18 10s. have been received.
It will thus be seen that the Brigade cannot rely to any great extent for support from the public, and this is the more strongly emphasised by the fact, that out of 10 members of the Local Board, only six have thought it compatible with the public position which they hold to subscribe.
It has therefore been determined that until sufficient funds are in hand, no further steps shall be taken in the matter, and it is most unreasonable to expect members of a Volunteer Brigade to exercise in their own clothes. It now rests with the Local Board whether the scheme of a Volunteer Fire Brigade is to be carried out or abandoned; if the former, a suitable grant must be made by the Local Board to place the Brigade in a proper state of
I am, dear sir,
D LLOYD MORGAN.
In response to this blunt reply, the Local Board decided to appoint a paid officer on a salary of £4 who would live in the cottage on Bailey Hill and furthermore it was recommended that the money subscribed be returned to those who had been kind enough to contribute.
In the following year a newspaper report on a fire at Rhydymwyn told a more positive story:
On Saturday last, an alarm of fire was raised, and the Mold fire engine called out for the first time since it had passed into the efficient hands of Sergeant-
Major Knapp and the other members of the militia staff. The fire proved to be
near Rhydymwyn railway station, where a valuable rick of hay was discovered in flames. Despite every effort it was almost entirely destroyed, but the fire brigade were successful in preventing the fire spreading to the adjoining ricks, as well as to the Antelope Inn, to which it was adjacent.
Wrexham Guardian 13 July 1878
However, it would seem that the will to provide a fire brigade could not be sustained. In May 1893 Mold Local Board were again debating the lack of a proper fire service. It was calculated that the cost of equipping a volunteer fire brigade would be about £400 and it was thought that the annual expenditure of about £200 would also be covered by voluntary contributions.
This must have galvanized the Local Board into action as by the end of August the Flintshire Observer was reporting that the ‘newly constructed’ Fire Brigade had undertaken its first practice at the militia barracks (on the site of Mold’s bus station today) supervised by Segeant Instructor Holden. By the summer of 1896 Captain McGregor was in charge and was complaining of the need for repairs at the fire station especially as they had purchased a new fire engine from Messrs Shand and Mason who had taken the old one in part exchange. McGreggor was still there 10 years later.
The 1899 ordnance survey map marks the fire station at the top of King Street, at the back of the Black Lion (B&M stores in 2020) and it may well have been there for some time ‘in the room owned by Mr Eyton’. By this time however, the rent paid by the council for the premises went to ‘Mr Maddox’s trustees’ and later to a Miss Scott.
Mold Urban District Council ( the Local Board’s successor) later provided a telephone at the Fire station and by January 1913 an electric bell had been installed as can be seen in the following report:
LEAD MINE FIRE NEAR MOLD. AN EXCITING SCENE:
About 1.15 on Friday morning police constable Kingsbury of Gwernymynydd, informed the police authorities at Mold that a fire had broken out at the Gwernymynydd Lead Mines, belonging to Messrs. Brunner, Mond and Co. The members of the local fire brigade were for the first time warned by means of the new electric fire alarm. Within a few minutes of the warning the fire engine was speeding away to the scene of the outbreak, two miles away. On arrival at the mine it was ascertained that the engine-room was enveloped in flames, and that two miners were working below. The workmen having been brought to the surface by means of another shaft, the brigade concentrated their attention on saving the store-rooms, saw mills and pit head. This they eventually succeeded in doing, the fire being subdued in about an hour. The engine-room was completely destroyed, and the plant sustained serious injury. The loss, which is estimated at about £ 1,000, is covered by insurance.
The fire emanated from the miners’ quarters, but its origin is unknown. In 1914 a new fire station was proposed. Tenders were invited for a fire brigade station and caretaker’s house on a site adjoining the new Town Hall in Earl Road. In a council meeting of 3 December a resolution to limit the expenditure on the new fire station was defeated as the majority view was that it was about time that the town woke up to their responsibilities in this
Thoughts also turned to converting part of the Market Hall on the Cross (now in 2020 Lloyd’s Bank) into accommodation for the fire engine. How far this was proceeded with is unsure but plans for new accommodation rumbled on for years.
The war intervened in 1914 and in October 1918 members of the fire brigade resigned en masse because of the perceived lack of interest by the Fire Brigade committee. As late as 1934 the members of the brigade were threatening to go on strike through lack of interest, lack of uniform and equipment.
A reflection of the state of affairs can be seen in a newspaper notice of late 1915:
TO ALL FARMERS, LANDLORDS AND RESIDENTS OUTSIDE THE HYDRANT AREA OF MOLD.
THE MOLD FIRE BRIGADE. Wish to inform you that in case of an out-break of fire, you will be required (owing to the shortage of horses in the town) to bring your own horses when giving the alarm of fire until such time as we can raise funds to convert our present engine into a Motor Engine.
Subscriptions towards the fund should be sent to BEN. DAVIES, Cambrian House, Mold, Hon. Secretary.
Annual expenditure on the fire brigade in1920-1 was £46 5s. 2d. out of an annual budget of £6,449 2s. 4d. and the town requested assistance from Hawarden Rural District Council and Buckley Urban District Council to finance the brigade.
The Fire Brigades Act 1938 was a milestone in the history of the fire brigade, in that, for the first time ever, it became the statutory obligation of every local council to provide a fire brigade for the protection of the council’s area and to provide a service without charge. In 1939 the 1,540 local council fire brigades were supported by the Auxiliary Fire Service Volunteers, which constituted the fire defence of Britain at the outbreak of the war. The auxiliary fire service station was at the Council’s depot at the bottom of Chester Street (the
Homebase site). However, the town’s own fire station was still in operation, and due to the lack of repair at the old station in King Street it was decided to look at converting the old Free Trade Hall, Wrexham Street (most recently Clays ladies’ fashion shop) to accommodate it. However this plan was thwarted when the site was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works for the war effort. Thoughts therefore turned to repairing the King Street station and the town Clerk wrote to the owner Mrs J E Davies asking for the roof to be fixed at the Council’s expense. Mrs Davies replied saying that her land at King Street was for sale.
In 1947 the Fire Services Act came into force and the wartime fire services were denationalised and was put in charge of nominated County Councils and Boroughs with the Secretary of State retaining an over-riding responsibility and authority in respect of standards of fire cover, training, specification of appliances and so on. The new Brigade was called the County of Flint Fire Service. The fire service in the town had gained stability at last. Many of us remember the fire station in King Street (see below).
Mold Fire Station was moved to its current location at Leadmills from King Street in 1967. The opened by Councillor S.T. Bithell. Flintshire Fire Service became the Clwyd Fire Service and finally the North Wales Fire Service after the 1996 reorganisation.
The fire brigade was a feature of town carnival parades and events throughout this time and the Civic society would be very pleased to hear on the Civic Society’s Facebook page from anyone who remembers them or from any former brigade members or their families.
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