Wednesday, 29th October, 1862
The Destruction Of New Brighton College
We are now enabled to lay before our readers full particulars of the disastrous fire at New Brighton College on Monday night, the announcement of which appeared in yesterday's Mercury. The premises, consisting of a capaolous house, with stabling, and the necessary out-buildings, were situated midway between Egremont Ferry and New Brighton, and were well known to all frequenters pf the Cheshire shore. At the time of the outbreak of the fire there were in the house besides the family of Dr. Poggi, the principal, Miss Jones, the family governess; Messrs. Cooper and Pawson, the resident masters, Mr. Pollesfen. a gentleman commercially connected with Liverpool, but residing with Dr. Poggi; 24 resident pupils, and several servants. About seven o'clock the attention of one of the female domesties was attracted to the upper part of the building by a strong smell as of fire, and on proceeding to the corridor leading to the attics and to one or two lumber rooms she found it densely filled with smoke which strengthened her suspicion that something was wrong. She instantly informed one of the pupils, and they were proceeding in company to alarm Dr. Poggi, when on the stairs they met Miss Jones, the governess, with one of the younger members of the family, whom she was escorting to bed, and informed her of what they had seen. With great prudence they sent for the doctor, who was seated with Mrs. Poggi in the sitting room (that lady only being confined only a fortnight) and stated that he was wanted; immediately he was acquainted with the facts he rushed upstairs and found the flames pouring from one of the attics and a lumber room opposite, so completely severing all communication with the other rooms on the corridor that any attempt to recover the property which they contained would have been alike futile and dangerous. On the stairs Dr. Poggi met five working men whose attention on the outside had been arrested by the bright light in the upper stories of the house, and by the volumes of smoke which poured from the windows, and who had rushed in to render what assistance they could.
It was, however, quickly discovered that the fire had obtained too strong of the promises to be easily reduced, and attention was consequently turned first to safety of the inmates and then to the recovery of such property as was within reach. The doctor conveyed the news to the inmates, and speedily every member of the family, including Mrs. Poggi and her infant, was placed beyond the reach of harm, and the pupils were scattered. The painful position in which Mrs. Poggi was placed might under such circumstances have occasioned the most serious consequence, but Charles Holland, Esq., a magistrate and a near neighbour, with a sympathy which reflects upon him the highest credit, took Mrs. Poggi and her eight children, with the governess and nurse, to his residence, which they still make their home. Long before this time, crowds of persons, attracted by the flames, had assembled on the spot, and there, arranged and superintended by Mr. Holland, proceeded to remove from the lower part of the premises all the furniture contained in the morning rooms, nursery, library, and dining room. Of course in the excitement and the haste much of the valuable property was damaged and rendered comparatively worthless. The rooms mentioned were, however, cleared, and amongst the property saved is the valuable library of books. This done, an effort was made to save the property from the next floor, but with the exceptions of a few articles from the bedrooms it was found impossible to rescue any of the valuable property on that floor. The flames had previously burst through the roof, and the weight of the burning joists and timbers falling above the heads of the men engaged on the second floor rendered further efforts extremely dangerous, and they were therefore most reluctantly compelled to abandon the task. The property rescued from the burring pile was removed to the Fort, where it was left in safe custody, but it formed an insignificant portion of the furniture of so large a house, and will be of little value.
At an early period an engine from Birkenhead arrived on the spot, and began to throw a limited quantity of water on the fire, the supply being exceedingly short; but from the first it was felt that all hope beyond that of saving the mere walls was visionary and groundless. It continued, however, to play until three o'clock yesterday morning, when the fire was sufficiently subdued to enable the firemen to return to their homes. The fire burnt with great fury during the early part of the evening, the flames being distinctively visible from the landing stages; indeed, it was at first thought that some vessel lying in the river had ignited, and one of the steam tugs put off to render assistance. but came back when the nature of the conflagration was ascertained. The fire continued to burn throughout the night, and was raging in the cellars even yesterday afternoon, but no further damage was apprehended. Nothing remains but the bare walls of the building, which are in a very dangerous state, if we except the back kitchen and stable, which was preserved from destruction by the efforts of the firemen, who obtained a supply of water from the premises of Mr. J.B. Hughes, a short distance from the spot.
The house, which belongs to a Mr. Kenyon, living near Warrington, is insured, and Dr. Poggi's lost is fully covered by insurance in the Royal Office. The furniture of all the bedrooms, the linen, the wearing apparel of Dr. Poggi and all his family, together with every article which the maters. governess, and 24 pupils possessed, have been destroyed, not one of them having saved even a change of clothing. In addition to this loss, Dr. Poggi only two months since expended £75 in painting and repairing the house so as to render it a more comfortable home for the gentlemen committed to his case. A body of the Cheshire county police from Wallasey, under the charge of Inspector Rowbottom and Sergeant Hindley, were present, and rendered valuable and efficient service, and the greatest praise also is due to the labouring men and sailors, who vied with each other in striving to save from the devouring element as much as possible of the valuable property. To Mr. Holland the reverend gentleman feels laid under great obligation, for the prompt and gentle-manly offer of his residence as a home for himself and family; nor are his friends less cheerfully accorded to Mrs. Murdock, of Manor House, and to J.B. Hughes. Esq., who jointly undertook the charge of the pupils.
The origin of the fire has not been positively ascertained, but there is every reason to think it was occasioned by an explosion of gas in one of the upper rooms. Dr. Poggi having only a few moments before the alarm was given been somewhat startled by the diminution of light in the sitting room; that supposition is also strengthened by the strong smell of gas which pervaded the house when Dr. Poggi first ascended the stairs; but how it became ignited will probably ever remain a mystery. The fire was still smouldering in the cellars of the house yesterday afternoon, but no further mischief was apprehended.