« AnteriorContinuar »
though somewhat inclined to the west; and, nappily, it did not blow with any considerable degree of violence. Issuing from any other quarter, the flames must have been driven immediately on some contiguous houses; in which case their destruction would have been inevitable. But althouffh it was sufficiently strong to carry the flame through the broken wall on the eastern side of the building, as no houses were on the opposite side of the street in that direction, their energies were spent without communicating with any other combustible matter.
The light which the flames emitted was so strong, as to resemble day; and even to render the most diminutive objects visible. The room in which a man, living in Tranmere, slept, was •so illuminated, that he got up to discover its source; and from its brilliancy he was enabled distinctly to discern by his watch the hour of the night. The place in which he lived, is in Cheshire, on the opposite side of the harbour, about two miles distant from the conflagration.
The heat also was too intense to be borne, except at a considerable dis-' tance. Many panes of glass in houses adjacent were broken with its excessive violence; and from the upper parts of the flaming ruins, the molten lead streamed around, and lodged in shinins; spangles on the clothes of several who approaohed near the fire to rescue from its destructive power such articles as could be secured.
The flames contirraed to rage with undiminished violence from the moment they gained the ascendancy, until nearly five o'clock, when, having exhausted the combustible matter which lay within their reach, they gradually declined, and occasionally became mixed with smoke that arose from a bed of fire distributed over the bottom of the building, surrounded by cracked and broken fragments of walls, that only gave variety to the forms of desolation.
From this vast pile of buildings, filled with type, printing-presses, numbers, books bound and in boards, together with stereotype, engravers' tools, copperplate-presses, paper, and stores of various kinds connected with the extensive trade carried on by Mr. Henry Fisher, the proprietor; the only articles •f consequence that have been preserved are, the copper-plates, and about a thousand reams of paper. These arti
cles, which had been deposited in a store room on the bottom floor, the men rescued at the risk of their lives. In this room they continued while the floors and roof"above them successively gave way, and until the melted type descending through the crevices of "the chambers, dropped, like rain, upon their clothes, and the paper they were preserving. Being thus compelled1 to retreat, the remaining massof this vast property, amounting to an enormons sum, ot which, at present, no accurate estimate can be formed, was involved in the common destruction. The account books, which were in a detached building, have been preserved. The vestiges of this vast property still lie buried in the heaps of rubbish that involve the remains of Caxton Huildins;s, which was one of the largest publishing establishments in this kingdom, and perhaps in the world.
The property rescued from the flames, and taken from the contiguous buildings which were thought to be in imminent danger, was partly carried into the houses of the neighbouring inhabitants, who readily opened their doors on this disastrous occasion, and partly piled in the streets, protected by a guard of soldiers until a place of -safety could be found, to secure it from the depredations of any who might have mingled with the vast crowds of people assembled to witness the catastrophe.
The fire continued burning during the whole day, and on the ensuing night occasionally blazed with renewed violence. Both by night and by day the soldiers were continued, to guard the ruins, and to prevent the thoughtless from approaching too near to the banging walls, until Thursday the 8th of February. The fire, though apparently nearly smothered, still continues to burn; and on the attempts that have been made to remove the rubbish, the heat has been too intolerable to be borne; and fire still begins to glow in many places as soon as the air is admitted.
The occasion of this calamity we have no means of tracing in a decisive manner. The various rooms having been warmed with steam from a boiler without the building, no fire was known to exist in the parts where it began. The men quitted their work about seven in the evening, and left every thing secure; and about eight, a man appointed for the purpose, went
Destruction of the Caxton Printing-office.
through the premises to see that every thing was safe; the whole of which he found and left secure.
The day preceding that on which the accident happened, being the anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne, numerous sky-rockets were thrown into the air on the occasion, many of which were near the building, on the roof of which several globules of fire, when the rockets burst, were seen to descend. The most probable conjecture therefore that can be formed is, that a living globule must have made its way through some window, and have thus lighted up this awful torch. The rockets were seen flying at various times, from about half past nine until eleven, not more than two hours before the flames attracted public attention.
One gentleman, indeed, has declared, that he perceived a dubious light in that end of the building where the fire originated, long before any alarm was given; and that its undulatory appearance so far excited his attention, that he watched its doubtful aspect some time before he retired to bed, which was about half past eleven o'clock. After this, one of the family got out of bed, and again observed it through his window, when he called some others of the family, who continued to notice it nearly half an hour, its red appearance at this time bearing some resemblance to the mouth of an oven, shining only through one window of the building. But the gentleman to whom we allude, having no anticipation of the melancholy event which followed, and no interest in the consequences, declined making any exertion; especially as on a former occasion he had nearly lost his life while attempting to extinguish the flames which were consuming the premises of another. At this eventful crisis, if timely information had been given, the premises might have been saved, since many would have risked their lives in attempting to preserve the building, and the vast
Eroperty which it contained. It is pwever, but just to observe, that since the occurrence of the awful event, he has expressed his sincere regret, that he had not instantly made known those ominous presages, which led to the melancholy catastrophe.
Providentially, both the premises and the property were insured to a considerable amount in various offices; but
the whole will be insufficient to cover the aggregate loss. In addition to this, the extensive trade which was carried on by the proprietor, has become so deranged, in consequence of this disaster, that some time must elapse before the stock can be replaced, to cause things to flow in their wonted channel, and furnish the regular supplies. Of this complicated calamity the disastrous effects will be felt by him for years to come.
In the meanwhile, nearly a hundred persons in Liverpool are thrown out of employment which they had calculated on as permanent. Most of those employed in the Caxton Printing Office, have been there from their youth, and some ten, fifteen, and twenty years. The long period in which they have been thus employed is a strong evidence in favour of their sobriety anil good conduct; and perhaps, taking them together, a more orderly, steady, industrious, and worthy set of men, could not be found in any printing-office throughout the united kingdom. This testimony in favour of their general character, their uniform conduct demands from Mr. Fisher the proprietor, who has been twenty-two years in the establishment.
It is a tribute of respectful acknowledgment, which is due from the proprietor to several gentlemen belonging to the trade in Liverpool, to say, that on hearing of the disaster, they kindly offered their assistance, in furnishing what types and presses they could conveniently spare, to assist in completing such works as demanded immediate attention. Others also, who had vacant premises, have, from true sympathetic feelings, voluntary offered thein on the present occasion. To all these he finds himself bound in gratitude to return his public thanks, and thus to connect with the disaster in this memorial, a testimony of their kindness, and an acknowledgment of his own obligations.
During the day on which the fire took place, several fragments of the tottering walls continued to fall, without the application of any external force; but many portions still remained standing, together with the lofty chimney, which, stripped of the adjoining buildings, exhibited a monument of desolation. This chimney, from i's base to its summit, was about eighty feet, which, together with the correspondent walls, rendered it exceed
Instruction of the Caxton Printing-office.
iogly dangerous for any person either to pass through those parts of the streets near which they stood, to tread on the ruins, or to remain in the houses that were within the range of their fall. Attempts were therefore made to bring them to the ground. To accomplish the demolition of the chimney, a rope was wrapped round it, at the extremities of which many men exerted all their strength. Nearly twelve hours it resisted all their efforts, although it locked from side to side like the mast of a ship when put in motion by the waves. The rope broke several times. It, however, at length gave way near the middle, and, in awful majesty, descended on the funeral pile of Caxton.
Some of the remaining walls, which were deemed sufficiently strong to justify the attempt, were scaled, and the tricks thrown down one after another; but others, that -were more hazardous, were either encompassed by ropes, or perforated to admit them, and by muscular exertion mingled with the common heap.
On surveying this calamity it is pleasing to reflect, that, notwithstanding the imminent danger to which many were exposed, no life was lost. For a short period during the tire, a report prevailed, that one man had been seen to enter the building, who bad not returned, and painful apprehensions were entertained for his safety. Happily, however, the report proved without foundation; and after a little while the sensation subsided.
But although no life was lost, ten men, on the day which followed that of the fire, had the most narrow escape from death, that it is possible to conwive. Ahuge portion of the wall standing contiguous to the yard, near the counting-house, which, no doubt, had been shaken by the falling chimney, snd was severely pressed by the vast accumulation of rubbish within, was thought to portend danger, on which ""count it was deemed expedient to lake it down. But as the large boiler, from which the building had been supplied with steam, stood very near its base, and which the falling materials would inevitably have crushed, an effort was made to preserve it. In doing wis, the men were busily at work, removing some loose rubbish, when on a sodden the wall above them gave way, and in an instant came thundering to the pound. The men in a moment took Nq.25.-vojl.iii.
the earliest alarm, and with a degree of speed and foresight which were scarcely their own, sheltered them' selves in places of safety until the awful crisis was past. One man on this occasion suffered a slight oontusion in his leg, but all besides escaped unhurt. On the morning of the fire, another man dislocated his ancle, and several received cuts, wounds, and bruises, but no personal accidents oocured of greater moment than those which have been mentioned. This wall in its descent crushed to the ground an adjoining building, that was contiguous to its base; and its more elevated parts totally demolished a cottage which stood at a greater distance. The chimney of another cottage had also been struck down, and its roof broken in, ou a preceding part of the day.
Since the preceding paragraphs were written, ithas been ascertained, that, independently of the building, the stock amounted to £42,000, out of which, in copperplates, paper, &c. about £5000 have been preserved. Of this loss, the public will be able to form some conception, on perusing the following list of articles, known, among others, to have perished in the flames.—Thirteen printing-presses; ten copperplate presses, and steam apparatus for heating the plates; four hundred original drawings; about five hundred reams of paper; ten thousand six hundred pages of stereotype plates; sixteen thousand pounds weight of types; two patent hydraulic presses; and three millions and a half of folio, quarto, and octavo numbers. The remains of the printing-presses, being of cast-iron, have lately been taken from the ruins: but all are rendered useless; the finer parts being either bent or broken, and the whole so corroded with the action of the fire, as to appear only as heavy and unprofitable lumber. Few things have been rescued from the rubbish, that can either be used, or that are worth repairing.
But notwithstanding the vast consu mption of books, &c. in the flames, astatedabove, we can inform our numerous subscribers to the various periodical works publishing at the Caxton press, that about one million five hundred thousand numbers still remain in London, and with the different agents in the various parts of the United Kingdom, from which a continuation of their regular supplies may be expected,