How did they cope with towering inferno?

Victoria Mills Fire - 1905
Victoria Mills Fire - 1905

Looking at this photograph dated July 27, 1905 you cannot imagine how the fire fighters and this appliance could possibly cope with such an inferno of a fire.

I think it would be fair to say that they had no chance of dealing with it other than to perhaps reduce the chances of the fire jumping across the canal and starting another fire at what is now the Mill Royd flat complex.

The building on fire was part of the Victoria Mills complex or, as it was often referred to , Baines Square.

The first mill was built in 1837 by J & H Noble and other mills were built by the Reverend Benjamin Firth, an independent minister from Clifton who had purchased some land from the Armytage estate and some old lime kilns from a Samuel Dawson and the Royal Hotel.

Having bought the land he hoped to develop the whole site and expand it to become part of the growing cotton and silk trades the town and its population were beginning to benefit from.

The re-development of this site included the building of other mills which included the Britannia Mill and some houses which later became the old Lloyds Bank and an office.

As the town prospered and businesses began to grow in the mid-19th century, many of them moved into the Victoria Mills complex.

One of these included Newton and Burrows who in 1843 had introduced the silk industry into Brighouse.

In 1852 at Prince Albert mill another business began silk spinning with other businesses soon following suit.

The silk industry would be a major employer in Brighouse for the next 50 years but went into a steep decline and eventual demise following the introduction of artificial silk.

The cotton industry was making rapid progress at this time and by 1859 two new mills were built and with Jonathan and Henry Stott employing about 150 employees at Victoria Mill.

This industry had grown to such an extent that it was almost employing as many as the silk industry.

The Victoria Mills complex was bought in 1849 by the noted 19th century entrepreneur Samuel Baines.

All that remained on the Victoria Mills site over the years was a haven for small business ranging from a snooker hall, Derek Rastrick’s fascinating little book shop, to an electrician and many others.

It was, as many readers will know, demolished to make way for the supermarket.

I am sure it would be a nice gesture to celebrate the industrial complex that once stood on this site with a plaque to reminder us all of this town’s industrial past.