Rat Causes Fire on Highgate Hill 1887

The Brisbane Courier Monday 10th October 1887

Fire on Highgate Hill

Shortly before 12 o’clock last night a fire broke out in the house of Mr Samuel Hunt, situated in a narrow thoroughfare on Highgate Hill, known as Baynes-street, Hampstead-road. […] Buckets and pans of water were thrown on the house, but with no appreciable effect. Some of the South Brisbane Volunteer Fire Brigade were soon on the spot, followed a few minutes later by the reel hose and men from the Central Fire Station. The water supply mains have not yet been extended to that part of Highgate Hill but fortunately a small hand pump had been bought from central station. [..] All attempts to save the house were futile and in half-an-hour it was razed to the ground.[…]Most fortunately  the night was absolutely calm, [..]  however had there been a slight puff of wind it is doubtful if anything could have saved any one of the houses on the same side of the street. 

Shortly before midnight, he [Mr Hunt] was dozing when he heard a rat running along the studding of the wall and looking up saw it near the box on which the lamp was standing. In reaching forward to strike the rat he knocked over the lamp. The reservoir broke and oil poured out and ignited. [..] He also lost about £8 in cash and his own and his children’s clothing. Mr. Hunt’s furniture and effects were insured with the Colonial Mutual for £100, including £10 on the harmonium, which was saved. Two of the boys were all but naked and even the daughters – the eldest a young woman – were only able to seize a dress each.

 Mr. Hunt came to the colony from England about two yours ago, and a few months after his arrival his wife died.

Brisbane Fire brigade 1898 Victorian State Library.jpg

Brisbane Fire Brigade 1898 (Victorian State Library)

Searches of articles concerning Highgate Hill from this period are dominated by accounts of house fires. Combustible fuel based forms of lighting, cooking and heating, the lack of mains supply water, together with wooden homes built as little as one metre apart as was the case in Baynes Street made fire a constant danger. Town water supply was gradually extended around Highgate Hill from 1888 when the reservoir on Gladstone Road near Hazelwood Street was established. This is a subject of another post on this blog, Highgate Hill Reservoir 1889.

In the 1880s, home lighting was by means of candles and kerosene oil lamps. Gas reticulation slowly spread across Highgate Hill following the establishment of the South Brisbane Gas Works in 1886.

gas stripping tower west end

1912 Gas stripping tower, West End

A gas stripping tower, used to remove impurities, was installed at the South Brisbane Gas and Light Company Works in 1912. The plant closed in 1969 and the tower now sits in Davies park, West End.

In addition to street lighting, gas transformed lighting and cooking in many homes. The construction of the electricity distribution network took place over the period roughly from 1919 until the late 1920s and homes slowly converted from gas light to electric.

Baynes Street

Baynes Street 2015

Baynes Street was named after the Baynes family who were prominent Brisbane butchers. One of the family lived nearby, as described in another post in this blog, A Strawberry Afternoon Tea Highgate Hill 1905.

3 thoughts on “Rat Causes Fire on Highgate Hill 1887

  1. Pingback: Highgate Hill Reservoir 1889 | Highgate Hill and Its History

  2. Pingback: The Yodelling Milk Money Thief and Other Scoundrels | Highgate Hill and Its History

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