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Market Place Market Place
Note the new building in the photo on the corner.
Regent Street Regent Street
Note the 'Old Red Lion Hotel'
Chapmangate Chapmangate
Note the independent chapel built in 1807 to the left.
The Great Fire of Pocklington

This article was taken from the 1951 Festival booklet produced for the 'Corkers' Rag and Gala day, 7th July, 1951. The author signed himself as E.C.P.

There will be some of the older residents of the town who can recall the great fire of 55 years ago which destroyed the extensive block of buildings in Chapmangate that at that time comprised the Salvation Army Barracks, the large corn warehouse of Mr. R. M. English and the building warehouse of Mr. T. Grant.

The Great Fire
The fire of 1896 destroyed the large grain store of RM English

It was during the early hours of Saturday, March 21st, 1896, that the outbreak was discovered by the late Mr. William Tinson who lived nearby and he quickly gave the alarm which brought the residents from their beds and put all the town in a state of hubbub and alarm for there was a fear that half the town might be involved. A suggestion by the late Mr. Thomas Robson, a solicitor in the town at the time, to have the Church bells rung to give the general alarm, was found unnecessary as the greater part of the town appeared to be on the scene in no time. As Pocklington, at that time, had no adequate appliances for fire fighting the York Fire Brigade was telegraphed for from the Railway Station and the Post Office, and a mounted messenger was also sent to York for the brigade.
In the meantime the flames were burning fiercely and these were attacked by volunteers with buckets of water and an antiquated manual was brought into play but the flames spread The fire was discovered about half past three and as the hours went by without the arrival of the fire brigade the anxiety increased and the residents of adjoining cottages removed their household furniture from their homes and these were piled haphazard in the centre of the road and the wood work of the houses "in Boyes Terrace were charred and smoking and the windows cracked with the heat.

1897 Fire Brigade
The fire caused the people of Pocklington to create their first fire brigade in 1897

Time slipped by and still no brigade and two cyclists volunteered to go to York on their tandem to ascertain the movements of the brigade and there was some relief when they returned and reported the City brigade was on its way drawn by four horses. It later transpired that the delay had been caused in their un­successful endeavour to get a special train. At five minutes to six o'clock a great cheer went up as the City Fire Manual Engine appeared in Chapmangate and wav, soon attacking the flames from both sides of the blazing building and they were joined about 7 a.m. by N.E.R. Brigade from York with 2,500 yards of hose and a No. 1 Steamer Engine having arrived by special train with steam up ready to bring four jets into play immediately. They too had been delayed by the line being blocked but the two brigades soon had the flames under hand and the danger to other property averted, but not before damage to the extent of thous­ands of pounds had been done. Eye witnesses of the fire describe how scores of volunteers worked under Mr. English in removing sacks of seed corn from his warehouse and another band assisted Mr. Grant to remove a lot of inflammable material from his warehouse.

On a later photograph, the Victoria Hall is on the left

It is said " Good often comes from evil," and it would appear that some good did come from Pocklington's great fire, disastrous as it was, for some short time afterwards Mr. Grant erected on the site of the burnt out shell a fine spacious public hall which we know as the " Victoria Hall," and which was the centre of the town's social activities for many years. But what was more important to the town was that it emphasised the need for up-to-date appliances for fire fighting in the town and the Urban Council of that day immediately put into motion plans for securing its own fire engine and it was not long afterwards that Pocklington's first fire brigade was born. This was Pocklington's second fire in the second half of the last century. Previously a big blaze at the large flax stacks had not only robbed the town of an industry but put a large number of people out of work.
It was stated that the fire on that occasion was so large that a newspaper could be read in Market Weighton streets by its glare.