Big Blaze at Conisboro’. – Saw Mills Completely Gutted – Proprietor’s Son Charged With Arson.

November 1908

Mexborough and Swinton Times November 14 1908

Big Blaze at Conisboro’.
Saw Mills Completely Gutted.
Sensational Developments
Proprietor’s Son Charged With Arson.

Conisboro’ was the scene of a disastrous fire late on Saturday night. The conflagration broke out just before eleven o’clock, at the Saw Mills at Burcroft, which are owned by Mr. Thomas Booth, A sensational feature of the affair is that the proprietor’s son has been remanded on a charge of Arson.

The saw mills are extensive premises, standing by the side of the Don at Conisboro’. Mr. Thomas Booth, the present proprietor, has owned them for 60 years, and they have been in the family longer than that. The buildings are very old, the walls containing some stones which bear dates in the 17th century. They are built of brick, with tiled roofs. They contained some of the largest beams that it would be possible to find for a very long way round. One beam which went from gable to gable of the premises burnt down, would have been much longer than a telegraph pole. There are two shops in which sawing and turning work had been carried on, and it was here that the fire was located.

Discovery of the Fire

The outbreak was discovered shortly before eleven o’clock by a man named Dutchman, who promptly gave the alarm. In eight minutes the Conisboro’ Fire Brigade, under the command of Captain Jones, had turned out, and were on the scene of the fire with the manual engine. Although the fire had only been started a short while before, it was found that it was impossible to save the two shops then involved. The firemen, therefore, turned their attention to a couple of storerooms adjoining the workshops, with the intention of saving as much stock as possible. These store-rooms contained a large stock of finished work, but although they were not injured by the flames, the stock was considerably damaged by water. Water was obtained from the mains, and the manual engine pumped an additional supply. Owing to the situation of the premises, there was, of course, no shortage of water. The fire brigade remained on duty throughout the night, to guard against the possibility of the fire spreading. The firemen carried out their duties in a most efficient manner, and are also to be congratulated upon the very smart manner in which they turned out on the receipt of the alarm.

With so much wood about, the fire, once it was started, soon obtained a firm hold, and the saving of the workshops was out of the question when the firemen came on the scene. In fact, the roof was just falling in as the brigade arrived.

After The Fire.

When a “Times” reporter made an inspection of the premises afterwards he found that the workshops had been completely-gutted, and were in a state of absolute devastation. The valuable machinery was twisted and bent, and hopelessly wrecked. Gear wheels and saws and shafts lay in a confused mass on the ground, amid a huge pile of bricks, broken tiles, charred beams, burnt wood, and other debris. The bottom portion of the premises was used for sawing purposes, and was provided with five saws. Above was a room used for turning, and here were kept eight turning lathes. The power for driving this machinery was obtained from the river Don, and transmitted by a large water wheel, connected with shafts and gears. The machinery is practically all rendered useless, and the loss in this direction counts as a very big item in the estimate of the damage caused by the fire.

In addition to the machinery, and a large number of smaller tools, there was a considerable quantity of stock kept in these shops. This has been completely destroyed. There was a large stock in the adjoining store-rooms, and this, as we have said, was badly injured by the water.

Broom Heads Galore.

The stock principally consisted of broom, heads, brush heads, and handles. Our reporter had never seen such huge piles of brush heads before. He was informed that the output of these articles alone from the mill was something like 100 gross per week. In one of the upper rooms there was a stock of 300 gross of broom and brush heads of various patterns and sizes. The making of these things was one of the chief features of the business. Another important branch of the business was the making of wooden staves for barrels. No barrels were made on the premises, but the woodwork was prepared for the cooper.

Mr. Booth has been in the habit of doing a lot of work for places in Lancashire, and during the cotton strike the demand fell off somewhat. For some time, therefore, the men had not been working full time, but now that the strike is over it was intended to put all hands on full time again. When the shops which are now burnt to the ground were in full working order some eighteen men would be employed there.

Damage Over £1000.

So far only a rough estimate can be formed of the damage done, but we have it on the a most reliable authority that it will amount to well over £1000. The property was partially insured,

The Sequel.

At to the cause of the outbreak, serious rumours were soon on the wing, and in consequence of information received the Police proceeded to enquire as to the whereabouts of Harold Booth, a son of the proprietor. They were spared a lot of trouble in this direction, however, for the man they wanted gave himself up before very long. On Monday he made his appearance at the Doncaster West. Riding Police Court, and was charged with wilfully setting fire to his father’s premises. Formal evidence was .given by Ps. Heywood, and the prisoner was then remanded for a week.

The name of Booth is an old and respected one in Conisbro’. Only a few days prior to the fire, Mr. Thomas Booth lost his wife, whom he had been married fifty-four years. The funeral of the deceased lady only too place on Thursday, two days before the fire. The latest turn of events has, as may be expected, been a terrible blow to the already grief-stricken father.

Harold Booth, the man now on remand, is about 44 years of age, and is a married man. For some time he was head cashier at Wombwell Main Colliery, and afterwards became manager there. The whole affair has created a great sensation in Conisboro’ and the surrounding neighbourhood in general. About twenty hands are affected by the stoppage.