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1910 fire at Glebe Farm

by janet on 3 March 2012 · 0 comments

The following article appeared in the Herts Express in May 1910, and was reproduced in the Sept 1972 and Oct 2005.issues of the Walkern Journal. It describes the fire that destroyed Glebe Farm on the site now occupied by Glebe View. The photos taken by Tom Boorman.

Big Fire at Walkern

Fire at Glebe Farm, Walkern, 1910

The whole district around Stevenage and Walkern was thrown into a state of great excitement on Thursday evening by the news that the Glebe farmhouse and buildings at Walkern were on fire. The Stevenage Fire Brigade was first summoned at about 4.30, at which hour the fire was first discovered; next the Buntingford Brigade was telephoned for, and finally an urgent message was received at the Hitchin fire station for the immediate attendance of the Brigade. Unfortunately, however, the combined efforts of the three Brigades proved insufficient to cope with the fierce fire which was raging, and as a consequence the whole farmhouse and outbuildings, together with the house of Mr. Devine, a medical practitioner, were destroyed. The sight of the Fire Brigades dashing through Stevenage caused great excitement in the town, and the roads surrounding Walkern became crowded with hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians, all bound for the scene of the fire.
The story of the outbreak is soon told. Soon after four o’clock a motor-tracter, believed to be on the way to Biggleswade, passed through Walkern and by the outbuildings of Glebe farm (which is occupied by Mr. Thomas Grey). The day had been hot, and the thatched roof of the farm was very dry and warm. Whether or no a spark from the engine fell on the roof cannot be stated with certainty, but the fact remains that

five minutes later a farm hand noticed the whole roof was ablaze. He alarmed the household, and Mrs. Gray immediately telephoned for the Stevenage Fire Brigade. In the meantime Mr. Gray roused all the farm hands, and aided by the kindly assistance of willing neighbours, endeavoured to confine the fire to the roof till the brigade arrived. Fortunately the cows were away in the fields, and the horses were quickly backed out of the stables. At the same time all the available furniture was brought out of the house, but so rapid was the spread of the fire that very little could be saved.

Fire at Mr Devine's opposite Glebe Farm, Walkern. Photo taken at the north end of the village, in front of the Rectory, looking south

When the first Brigade arrived the whole roof of the farm buildings was blazing like a furnace, and the men immediately ran out the hose and obtained a good supply

of water from a neighbouring pond. So fierce was the fire that the inhabitants began to remove their belongings from the row of cottages opposite, and all the efforts of the firemen could not prevent the residence of Mr. Devine from catching fire. The situation having become increasingly serious, the Buntingford Brigade was summoned, and soon afterwards the Hitchin Brigade received a call. A great many beehives and some poultry were destroyed in the fire, and the members of the household were compelled to leave a good deal of wearing apparel in the house. In spite of the united efforts of the three brigades it soon became evident that the whole place was doomed, and the firemen endeavoured to keep the fire from spreading across the road. There was not a very strong wind blowing at the time. Mr. Devine’s house was practically destroyed by the fire.

He was away from the village the whole of the day and must have had a melancholy home-coming. Most of the furniture in the house was saved, excepting a few bedsteads and other articles. By eight o’clock the farm buildings were almost level with the ground, nothing remaining but charred and smoking remnants of woodwork, ashes and water-soaked debris.

Fire at Mr Devine's cottage opposite Glebe Farm, Walkern. The photo is taken from the north end of the village, in front of the Rectory, looking south

The walls of the farmhouse were still standing, as also were the walls of Mr. Devine’s house. Great crowds gathered during the evening to watch the fire, and were superintended by the local and Stevenage police. Enterprising photographers were taking snapshots of the scene of havoc.

Much sympathy and kind help was shown to the family in their sudden and terrible trouble, and they were quickly offered accommodation in the houses of friends.

The firemen toiled heroically, and carried on their trying work in the most difficult and dangerous situations. Several persons in the crowd received an accidental drenching through pressing too closely upon the scene, but the public generally kept a free space for the operations of the fireman. Unfortunately for Mr. Gray, his property is not insured. The farm buildings it is understood were owned by the authorities of King’s College, Cambridge.


Glebe farm granary in 2012

All that remains of the original farm is the 18th century, weatherboarded granary…

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