Searches of newspaper articles concerning Highgate Hill from the 1880s 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.
On this occasion, the neighbours tried to assist by throwing buckets and pans of water on the house and when the Fire Brigade arrived, they tried using a hand pump, all to no avail. The house was razed to the ground. There was no water supply mains on Highgate Hill at that stage.
It appeared that Mr Hunt had been dozing when he heard a rat running along the studding of the wall. In reaching forward to strike the rat, he knocked over an oil lamp. The reservoir broke and oil poured out and ignited. He and his children were left only with the clothes they were wearing. His wife had died a few years previously.
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.
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. However at least one home in Highgate Hill still lacked gas and electricity as late as 1953.
Baynes Street, where the fire occurred, 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 .