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1913: Serious fire at Workhouse, toys destroyed

Cuckfield Workhouse c1900 (Colourised image)

An alarming outbreak of fire occurred in the early hours of Monday at the Workhouse. It appears that one of the women inmates, who was looking after a baby, left her bedroom to make the child some food on a gas jet on the landing. She thought she smelt something burning and she went and called up to Nurse Fream, who went and woke up the Master and Matron (Mr and Mrs Gosden).


Without waiting to dress the Matron ran downstairs to see where the fire was. At the bottom she looked through a fanlight and saw flames in the children's nursery. She went back and told her husband, who was now dressed, and he went and connected the hose and soon got it to work. Other officers were called up and the inmates and children aroused and told to dress. So hot did the floor in the women's ward become that many of them had to go out and dress on the landing. All displayed great calm, and the officers worked well to extinguish the fames, which were subdued half-an-hour after the outbreak was discovered.


All the children's Christmas books and toys were burnt, also 20 pairs of boots and 10 pairs of slippers, several yards of ribbon, and some pictures.


Had the fire not have been discovered so promptly the likelihood is there would have been loss of life. Will any fairy godmother come forward and give the children fresh toys Such kindness would be deeply appreciated by them as well as by the Master and Matron, who bought the things from the Treat Fund.


If it is thought the fire originated in the lock up cupboard. They will match is there and  bon-bons, and it is surmised that mice nibbled the matches and thus set fire to the other things. Since writing the above we are pleased to learn that Mrs Farrow, wife of Mr Thomas Farrow, of Staplefield Court, has assumed the role of fairy godmother. On Tuesday Mrs Farrow, accompanied by her daughter and a friend motored over to Cuckfield Workhouse and handed the matron a cheque to provide the children with a fresh supply of toys. Her prompt and kindly action was greatly appreciated.


Sussex Agricultural Express 3 January 1913


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details https://cuckfieldmuseum.org.

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