1911 Letter to Fire Brigade from WT Bigsby and Sons

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council, 27th June, 1911

Report of the No. 1 Fire Brigade Committee.


Mr. A. Mizen (Chairman)

Mr. G. H. Barson
Mr. E. Birch
Mr. W. M. Bland
Mr. J. R. Chart
Mr. G. J. Dale
Mr. A. Dendy
Mr. J. D. Drewett
Mr. J. M. Leather
Mr. H. Mount
Mr. W. H. Parslow
Rev. R. Richman

Meeting held 27th June, 1911

The Committee beg to report the receipt of a letter of thanks from Messrs. Bigsby & Sons for the services rendered by the Brigade:

Dear Captain Jenner,

I take this, the earliest opportunity after the Coronation holidays, of thanking you on behalf of our firm for the splendid efforts you made in preventing the spreading of the fire at our premises. It was due in a great measure to the fact that both your No. 1 and No. 2 companies have apparently been in the habit of fighting fires at Varnish Factories that no greater loss occurred, and that you were able to limit the fire to the building in which the fire originally broke out.

We must certainly compliment you on having a most efficient staff under your control. We think that the Insurance Companies who carry our insurance have much to thank you for, as had it not been for the efforts of your Brigades, the remaining building of the block which contained a gum stock of £4,000 to £5,000, and about 60,000 gallons varnish, would most certainly have caught fire and nothing then would have saved them.

We therefore beg you to convey on our behalf our thanks to your fire committee and to each individual member of your brigades, for their efforts in putting out the fire last Wednesday.

Faithfully yours,

W. T. Bigsby & Son,
per J. A. Bigsby

Details of the fire were reported in the Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette – Saturday 24 June 1911:

Workman Burnt to Death.

A fire with fatal results broke out at W. T. Bigsby Sons’ varnish works, Morden-road, Mitcham, on Wednesday afternoon. At about 1.30 a man named Ebenezer Symes, aged 49, years, who had worked at Bigsby’s 30 years, was pouring oil into one the varnish vats, to prevent boiling over, when the varnish overflowed upon him, setting his clothes in flames. Some comrades hastened to his assistance, and attempted to extinguish the flames by means of hand pumps.

Meanwhile the building had caught on fire, and alarms had been raised. The Fire Brigades of Mitcham, Morden, Merton, Carshalton, Sutton, and Wallington were all in attendance, but the building was practically gutted, the damage exceeding £2,000.

Symes, who was horribly burnt, was at first thought be dead, but he was, in fact, alive, and was conveyed to the Croydon Hospital. Here, the unfortunate man passed away on Thursday morning.

Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Borough Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

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