Northampton Mercury 16 September 1854

Castlethorpe.—On Wednesday night, between 10 and 11 o'clock, fire broke out on the farm premises of Mr. Bull, of Castlethorpe, which destroyed rick of wheat, two ricks of beans, one of hay, one of barley, and one of oats, besides large barn containing a great quantity of barley. A brisk west wind was blowing at the time, and carried the fire, which commenced at the west end of the premises, directly across the yard, and became evident, in a short time, that all endeavours to check the progress of the flames would be unavailable. The engines were fetched from Stony Stratford, but were useless from the want of water. The fire, however, had gained too complete mastery to admit of their being of any service. Mr. Bull, we believe, was insured.

Northampton Mercury 29 February 1868

CASTLETHORPE—About noon on Tuesday last a fire broke out at a cottage on the farm of Mr. J. Whiting of Castlethorpe near Wolverton, at which latter place the flames and smoke could be distinctly seen a considerable tune. The cottage, in which Mr. Showler, farm bailiff to Mr. Whiting, lived, was burnt down, and a good deal of his furniture was consumed: also some hovels. The cause of the fire supposed to be a spark from an engine, which was near to the cottage, working the apparatus for steam ploughing. The Stony Stratford Fire Brigade was at the conflagration as soon as possible.

Northampton Mercury 26 July 1873

Stephen Herbert, 22, labourer, wilfully setting fire to a stack of hay, the property of Andrew Mason, at Castlethorpe, on the 8th July, 1873. Not guilty.

Northampton Mercury 29 May 1891


Fire.—On Tuesday evening it was discovered that haystack belonging to Mr. Joel Lack, of the Navigation Inn, was on fire. A person was immediately sent for the Stony Stratford Fire Brigade, who were soon on the spot, but found the rick in a blaze, and almost beyond all hopes extinguishing it. After brief consultation between the agent of the Northern Insurance Company (Mr. J. S. Tibitts, Stony Stratford) and the superintendent the brigade, it resolved not to bring the engine into operation, as there was no immediate danger, and the rick was comparatively small. The damage is covered by insurance.


At Towcester, on Thursday, before Mr. R. W. Watkins, William Compton, Castlethorpe, painter, was charged by Joel Lack, Cosgrove, innkeeper, with unlawfully and feloniously setting fire to a hayrick belonging to prosecutor, at Cosgrove, on the 26th inst.—The prosecutor said on the 26th inst. he had a stack of hay standing in a grass field adjoining the road from his house to Castlethorpe. When prosecutor left the rick a few minutes to four it was quite safe, and when he went home he saw the prisoner sitting there. Prisoner left about seven, and few minutes after a boy (George Eakins) ran into prosecutor house and informed him his rick was on fire. There were between 14 and 16 tons of hay, and it was all consumed. A piece of it had been cut away in the meadow. Prosecutor had refused to serve prisoner with beer the house.—George Eakins, of Castlethorpe, spoke of giving the alarm and of seeing prisoner near the fire. —Inspector R. Matthews, stationed Towcester, proved apprehending prisoner, and he was then committed for trial at the Assizes, and was admitted to bail —himself in £50, and two sureties in £25 each.

Northampton Mercury 29 April 1892

FIRE. On Sunday evening, a part of an old bean rick was burnt, belonging to Messrs. Whiting Bros. at Barney Grounds Buildings. The rick was supposed to have been set on fire by little children playing with matches.

Northampton Mercury 17 February 1899



About 11.15 p.m. Thursday evening, a serious fire occurred at Castlethorpe, when two cottages, the property Mrs Amos, and occupied by Messrs. Bird and Powell were completely burned out. The fire was discovered in a barn adjoining one of the cottages by some of Bird's family, the barn being full of straw. Efforts were made put it out, and was it thought successfully, but, afterwards, in shifting the straw the flames burst out afresh, and the cottages, being thatched, soon caught fire. The Stony Stratford brigade were sent for, but when they arrived fire had got a good hold. The flames were eventually mastered, although not until the cottages were in ruins. Mr Bird’s furniture was burnt up, but some of Mr. Powell's was saved. Mr. Bird is a signalman on the railway, but could not get away from his box, although he could see his house flames.

The Bucks Standard 18 February 1899

FIRE.- Two Cottagers Burnt Out.- About 11.15 on Thursday night last, February 16, a fire of an alarming nature broke out in this village when two cottages the property of Lord Carrington, and occupied by Messrs. Bird and Powell respectively, were completely burnt out. The fire was discovered in a barn adjoining one of the cottages by some of Mr. Bird’s family, and the barn being full of straw, efforts were made, and it was thought successful, to put out the flames, but afterwards in shifting the straw some underneath again burnt into flame and at once a furious conflagration was raging. The cottages were thatched and afforded ready fuel to the flames. Efforts were made to check the fire, and the Stony Stratford Brigade were sent. When they arrived, the fire had got good hold, but a plentiful supply of water being at hand the flames were at once …stored, but not before the cottages were a mass of ruins. Mr. Bird’s furniture was completely burnt up, but some of Mr. Powel’s was saved. The Buildings were it is believed, insured, but the poor occupiers have lost their all. Mr. Bird, who is a signalman on the railway, was in the unfortunate position of seeing his home burnt up before his eyes, but could not get away from his box until relieved.

Joe Gobbey's reminiscenecs of the fire in 1899

The Mercury & Herald 15 July 1971

Joe Gobbey
Joe Gobbey
When Mr. Gobbey was a boy a big blaze started in the large store where Farmer Amos kept tackle and several cottages wereinvolved. One of them was the home of Billy Bird, a railway signalman, who was on duty at the time and from the signal-box watched the destruction of his cottage.

When the fire started on a weekday afternoon Mr. Gobbey was working at Castlethorpe Railway Station as a porter and he raced to the blaze while the signalman gave the alarm. “I was first on the scene,” said Mr. Gobbey.

Wolverton Fire Brigade hurried to the village and the railway sent a big tender by rail to Castlethorpe Railway Station. And there it stood in a siding helpless while the cottages were gutted but presumably capable of action if railway property became involved.

Mr.Gobbey told me how he and Jack Allen, a stonemason from Stoke Goldington, got a piano out of Teddy Powell’s house; Jack Allen was inside pushing, Mr. Gobbey was outside pulling and when the piano stuck in the doorway the two men climbed over the piano to exchange places so that Mr. Gobbey could do the pushing.

It was as well they did change places, because, as Mr. Gobbey, the younger man, pushed the piano clear, the blazing roof collapsed inside the cottage.

Remains of one of the cottages with a barrel of beer in the front.

Other residents recalled by Mr. Gobbey were Harry Geary of Hanslope coming down from the roof of an old butcher’s shop with his shirt sleeves on fire, and of a barrel of beer being delivered at the height of the blaze. As it could not go in the house, it was rolled up the garden path and left.

A collection was started in the district to help the victims of the fire and Mr. Gobbey and another porter helped by taking collecting boxes along the trains which stopped at Castlethorpe Station.

Castlethorpe Fire 1905

The Wolverton Express 11 August 1905

Villages Burnt Out.

Fire Engine Wolverton Works 1900-1914
Fire Engine Wolverton Works
1900- 1914
By kind permission of The Living Archive
Castlethorpe was the scene of a desolating conflagration on the 4th inst. Which bore a striking and significant similarity to the recent outbreak that spread destruction and dismay through a large portion of the village of Eydon. Both conflagrations occurred in broad daylight – a Providential happening in each instance. And as at Eydon so at Castlethorpe it was a somewhat huddled heap of thatched buildings that paid the toll to the fiery visitant. To carry the comparison further – and here is the saddest feature of the unhappy affair – in both cases it was on the poorer portion of the community that the weight of the disaster fell.

Castlethorpe fire in this latter respect is an intensely distressing business. No fewer than 13 cottage homes were devastated, two of the families occupying two cottages each, and a total of 36 people were rendered homeless and, practically speaking, helpless and hopeless. So ferociously did the flames envelope the whole of the eleven homesteads that the unfortunate occupants were able to do little more than save themselves. In one or two instances a portion of the furniture was arrested from the flames, but there are several cases in which the homeless can carry in one hand the whole of their earthly possessions. Such was the terrible tragedy enacted in a few brief moments, and the whole of it is ascribed to a spark from a railway engine.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is conjectured that a spark from a passing railway engine was carried on to the roof of Mr. Masterman’s stabling.
Picture showing the barns & sheds where the 1905 started

It was just about half-past two that the outbreak occurred. Miss Tooth, who lives on the north side of Back-street, noticed the thatch of a barn on the opposite side of the thoroughfare blazing. A hurricane wind was blowing more or less from the south-west; and instantly recognising the dangers which threatened her neighbours living in thatched cottages she raised the alarm. Hardly was the position realised than the danger became a real disaster. In less time than it takes to tell blazing thatch was hurled across the road by the violent wind, and also cast to the right of the original outbreak. An adjoining block of stables was instantly on fire and practically at the very same instant four cottage roofs-these latter were on the north side of the street-were flaring in a dozen different places.

Back Street
(now known as South St.)

Burnt cottage front street near Carrington Arms
In Back-street on one side were four utterly ruined cottages. The destruction had deprived eight persons of a home:
Mrs. Clarke, a widow, and two sons.
Mr. Jesse Lambert, labourer, and wife.
Mr. E. Powell, labourer, wife and two children.

Burnt cottage front street Carrington Arms to the right
People viewing the burnt cottage in front street
Back Street after the fire.

Front Street
(now known as North St.)

It was the Front-street that the greatest share of the disaster fell although here again it is nothing but marvellous that other buildings were not involved in the destruction.
Nine cottages were gutted, rendering quite twenty-eight people homeless:

Mr. Joseph Smith, labourer, his wife and five children.
Mrs. Brown, widow.
Mr. John Evans, painter, wife, and four children.
Mr. F Wills, labourer, wife and child.
Mr. Jack Clarke, labourer.
Mr. W. Gray, wife and child.
Mrs. Vials, widow.
Mr. W. Worker, platelayer, wife, and four children.

Front street cottages before the fire of 1905
Front Street after the fire.
Front street cottages before and after the fire of 1905

Front Street view .
Crowd in front of burnt cottages in Front Street

In Front-street the fire did still greater damage, nine cottages being gutted and 28 people made homeless. The property destroyed here belonged four to Mr. Lack, Wolverton, two to Miss Varney, one to Mr. Tooth, Stantonbury, and one to Mr. Whiting. The families so suddenly rendered homeless are: Mr. J. Smith, labourer, his wife & five children; Mrs. Brown, widow; Mr. John Evans, painter, wife and four children; Mr. F. Wills, labourer, wife and child; Mr. Jack Clarke, labourer; Mr. W. Gray, wife and child; Mrs. Vials, widow; and Mr. W. Worker, platelayer, wife and four children. It will thus be seen that the total number of homeless victims is 36, nearly all of whom are left with nothing with which to commence a new home. Those who did save any of their furniture, and they were but few, found shelter in the empty cottages in the village, others were accommodated by neighbours whose homes escaped the fire, and the remainder were provided with accommodation for the night in the railway station waiting room.
The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is conjectured that a spark from a passing railway engine was carried on to the roof of Mr. Masterman’s stabling. The damage is estimated at between £1000 and £2000, and a sad feature of the whole affair is that none of the burnt-out families were insured against fire.

Front Street cottages after the fire

View burnt building in Front Street.

On lookers after the fire in Front St.
View of the damaged houses in Front Street.

 Front Street after 1905 fire
On looker viewing the fire in Front Street.

On lookers after the fire in Front Street
Damaged timbers
Damaged building

Burnt cottage in front street

The situation was at once terrifying and disastrous. The previous day’s rain had in no way rendered the thatch capable of resisting the fire, especially fanned as it was by a strong gusty wind, and before the affrighted villagers could organise any concerted action to cope with the destroying element the disaster had assumed proportions which threatened the safety of the whole village. Carried by a veritable gale, flaming thatch was spreading itself in all directions. Fortunately some of the neighbouring property is slate-roofed, and although at least two such protected cottages were virtually gutted, the presence of theses modern roofs undoubtedly was the cause of restricting the fire. But over these two modern blocks, known respectively Lack’s Yard and Varney’s Yard, strands of flame were carried onto more roofs unable to offer any resistance. These cottages are in what is called Front-street-the main thoroughfare through the village. Very quickly roof after roof ignited and in few minute after the detection of the original outbreak the villagers were confronted with the appalling fact the thirteen houses were all fiercely blazing to say nothing of other buildings.

Fortunately little time had been lost in sending for assistance. Occurring as the fire did in the middle of the afternoon, predictably all the male population was away at work either in the fields or at Wolverton.

Over 60 Castlethorpe men are employed in the Railway Works. The Wolverton Steamer and Brigade were telegraphed for and the Stony Stratford Brigade. But although a mishap detained the cyclist somewhat the Stratford men were the first to come to the aid of the terrified village. Meanwhile men employed on the farms of Mr. Whiting and Mr. Holt and Mr. Amos had been despatched to the scene by their employers, and when Captain Downing and his men arrived they found every available person of every age engaged in the task of saving what was possible from the devouring flames. So terrific was the heat and so dangerous the task of going too near the fiercely burning buildings that very little of value was saved from the cottages which had already become involved. Frightened neighbours, whose homesteads were constantly threatened, however hastily moved to a place of safety all the furniture they could get out.

Wolverton Works Fire Brigade
Wolverton Works
Fire Brigade
By kind permission of
The Living Archive
The firemen found the whole of the thirteen cottages then alight completely doomed. Only in the case of one cottage, a slated dwelling in the very centre of the fire zone was any portion of the roof left. There was also the danger of the fire further spreading, although happily the Church and its spacious grounds prevented the wind carrying further disaster to the immediate wake. But to make the already heavy task of the firemen more alarming was the discovery that water was in no sense plentiful. A thousand feet of hoses was necessary to get a connection with a pond belonging to Mr. Holt and from this the firemen-they were … being aided by the Wolverton Brigade, who had brought their manuel-commenced their onerous task of combating both flame and wind. Their efforts were mainly directed towards preventing the fire from spreading, and the extent of this task may in some measure be realised by the fact that at least three separate fires were in existence, in each case with more thatched roofs in dangerous contiguity. By this time all the Castlethorpe men employed at Wolverton Carriage Works were also on the scene, the Authorities having very promptly and generously allowed the double stopping of an express to convey men to the burning village. The railway fire steamer had also come along by rail, but it, unfortunately was useless, inasmuch as it was built on railway carriage wheels, a fact that prevented it being utilised in any way. Had it been possible even to use it in obtaining water from the river the hard working firemen would have been greatly aided. When the two manuels got to work Mr. Holt’s pond was not long in being emptied.

By this time, however the fire was burning itself out. The fire had raged with remarkable ferocity, and had spent itself in a time which, comparatively speaking, was as brief as the original spread of the conflagration. But while the fire was at its height it literally resembled a furnace. The roar and the heat of the flames were terrifying. Vegetation was scorched up some distance around, while burning paper, etc., was carried hundreds of yards by the wind. But further extension of the fire had been successfully prevented by the time the first pond had been used up. It was still, however, necessary to keep hoes pipes at work, and a connection was made with a pond belonging to Mr. Whiting; and as a fireman succinctly put it-“When that’s done we’re done too.” Happily it more than sufficed to put all further danger for the time being at all events out of the range of possibility. Meanwhile, the unhappy villagers who had been so suddenly and tragically deprived of their homes and the greater proportion of their worldly belongings were in a distraught and pitiable plight.

News of Castlethorpe’s calamity had spread very rapidly-like all bad news-and trains from all directions brought contingents of sightseers, whose sympathy was speedily being tapped by voluntary friends of the homeless who had armed themselves with improvised collecting boxes.

The sight indeed, was pathetic and eloquent enough to tough the heart of a veritable stoic. Walking up from the Station, the visitors soon came across the first instance of the awful suddenness with which the disaster had overcome the village. Within the station gate was found, piled up out of all range of danger, a miscellaneous collection of furniture-furniture which had only a few minutes before made some poor villager a happy and contented home, but now sadly mauled and broken as a result of the fierce struggle with the raging flames for its possession. A little further on came an more poignant evidence of the disaster. Whichever way one looked-up Back-street or up Front-street were veritable roofless and gutted houses, with mere remnants of what had made comfortable homes so recently, now thrown by the roadside. In Back-street on one side were four utterly ruined cottages. The destruction had deprived eight persons of a home:
Mrs. Clarke, a widow, and two sons.
Mr. Jesse Lambert, labourer, and wife.
Mr. E. Pell [Powell], labourer, wife and two children.
Mrs. Lambert was away at Wolverton when the fire happened, and her hopeless grief on discovering that nothing but the bare and roofless walls of the home were left was only one of the pathetic incidents of a conflagration which was full of pathos. To make Lambert’s case all the more distressing Mr. Lambert is too old and infirm to work. The unfortunate couple had only lived in the cottage a week. Their neighbours, the Pells [Powell], who occupied two cottages were no better off. Their sole recovery from the flames consisted of a piano and a chest of drawers; this was the second time within six years that they had been burnt out. Hardly one of the suffers, either here or in Front-street, however large or small his or her loss, seems to have been covered by insurance. The fact is not altogether an evidence of want of thrift. Many insurance offices absolutely refuse to have anything to do with thatched homes, and other inflict a prohibitive premium. All four of the cottages, in Back-street belong to Mr. Rose of Hanslope. The other damage done in the street was the destruction of stables used as outhouses attached to Miss Tooth’s house, and, on the opposite side of the street, the unroofing of a barn etc., occupied by Mr. Masterman of the Carrington Arms, under Lord Carrington; and stables which are occupied by Countess Bosdari.
But several of the people living in Back-street, owe the present existence of their homes to one of those unaccountable circumstances always to be found in a calamity of this kind. Thatched though they may be, exactly the same as those so speedily doomed, they quite escaped. It was the Front-street that the greatest share of the disaster fell although here again it is nothing but marvellous that other buildings were not involved in the destruction. Nine cottages were gutted, rendering quite twenty-eight people homeless:
Mr. Joseph Smith, labourer, his wife and five children.
Mrs. Brown, widow.
Mr. John Evans, painter, wife, and four children.
Mr. F Wills, labourer, wife and child.
Mr. Jack Clarke, labourer.
Mr. W. Gray, wife and child.
Mrs. Vials, widow.
Mr. W. Worker, platelayer, wife, and four children.

The total number of the homeless victims of the conflagration is therefore 36, and in a very few instances is there anything left with which to commence a new home. One or two of those who did save something were successful in obtaining possession of what empty cottages there were in the village. Others were accommodated by their neighbours whose places escaped the flames; and yet others were found accommodation for the night in the waiting-room at the Station. Another kindness extended to the afflicted people was the use of both the Carrington and the Council Schools for the housing of what furniture, etc., was saved from the burned and other buildings. Of the eight gutted cottages in Front-street only two were slated buildings-those occupied by Mrs. Brown, one of which was used as a bakehouse. Strangely enough, years ago this house was a public-house, with the homely sign of Tom and Jerry. The house was then occupied by Mr. Soden, who subsequently transferred the licence to the premises now known as the Carrington Arms. Amongst the sad features of the fire in Front-street was the fact that the Wills family only moved in a week or so ago, the sole reminder of their home is a cradle and two chairs. The Front-street property which was devastated , belonged four to Mr. Lack, Wolverton, two to Miss Varney, one to Mr. Tooth, Stantonbury, and one to Mr. Whiting.

It is impossible yet to properly estimate the amount of damage done. It cannot, however, have amounted to less than £2,000. The only possible explanation of the origin of the conflagration is that a spark was carried from a passing train on to the roof of Mr. Masterman’s stabling. There was no other fire anywhere in the immediate neighbourhood. The railway runs quite a hundred yards away, and it is stated that villagers heard a train rush through only a few moments before Miss Tooth gave the alarm.

Castlethorpe, Saturday Morning

By dint of hard work, hampered by many drawbacks, particularly a lack of water. Stony Stratford Brigade kept the burning embers of the fire from causing any further material damaged during the night. The second pond from which they drew water was exhausted long before the night really began. When the need for further water became apparent the firemen had to draw on the village wells, and later on, thanks to the generous action of Mr. and Mrs. Waller, they were able to get another, for the time being, useful supply. This practically exhausted every serviceable source available. All possible danger of further damage was however, by this time, over. But during the night the fire had several times broken out fiercely, lighting up the sky with lurid glare. As late as four o’clock this morning big flames were licking round the burned and blackened walls of the devastated homes. But gradually the fire expended itself, and at ten o’clock the firemen were able to declare the further need of water at an end.

Early this morning a telegram, addressed to the Rector, the Rev. W. J. Harkness, who is away on holiday, reached the village from the Duke of Grafton. It read: “has anything been done on a system to help the burnt-out families?”

The reply sent to His Grace was: “No organised relief yet.” But steps were soon being taken to do something tangible, and Mr. Masterman, as Chairman of the Parish Council, and the Rev. F. Davis, curate of the parish, arranged for a meeting this afternoon, at which Lord Carrington’s agent, Mr. Marshall Jonas, was to be present. Lord Carrington is the principal landowner in the village, but none of his lordship’s property was involved in the fire.

Some of the sufferers by the fire were this morning digging amongst the ashes of their once happy homesteads in search of money and valuables which had been involved in the wholesale destruction. One man named Clarke lost over £20 in gold, and he and his friends this morning diligently dug and sifted the rubbish heap his dwelling now is in search of money. Other householders in the zone of fire, who had been compelled to remove their belongings, yesterday afternoon, must succumb, were this morning engaged in replacing their goods. As late as midnight one cottager found it necessary to protect his belongings by removing them.



To establish a relief fund and to appoint a collecting committee for the assistance of the unfortunate villagers of Castlethorpe. Whose belongings were completely destroyed, by Friday’s calamitous fire, a meeting was held in the Council Schools on Saturday afternoon. A few willing volunteers had during Friday evening and Saturday morning been zealously collecting for their stricken neighbours, and a good sum had been received from numerous visitors who had journeyed to the scene of the fire. The room was full of interested and sympathetic residents, as well as the hopeless cottagers, and Mr. W. W. Carlile, M.P., was voted to chair. Included among those present were the Rev. F. Davies (Curate of Castlethorpe and Hanslope), Mr. Carter Jonas (Steward to Lord Carrington), Mr. A. Masterman, Mr. G. C. Nichols, Mr. H. Wallach, Mr. C. Whiting, Mr. J. Luing, Mr. T. Osborn, Mr. A. Chandler, Mr. S. Wheldon, Mrs. Carlile, Mrs. Atkinson, Mrs. Wynne, and Mrs. Whiting. The chairman, in opening the meeting, said he knew how all regretted very much the great calamity which had befallen them in the village, and alluded to the object of the meeting, which interested everybody in the parish and those who resided outside-that of providing due and adequate help to all who had suffered loss. The Committee whom they were about to appoint would distribute the clothes, of which happily they had received a large number, and which were immediately required. He suggest they should follow the course adopted by Wiltshire recently at a similar occurrence, where they wisely made the Parish Council the responsible Committee, giving them power to co-opt ladies of the district and other who they considered might be useful. He thought that course would be the best to adopt. His wife he continued who was connected with Bucks and Berks Needlework Guild, had informed him there was a surplus of clothes in connection with the Guild, and had been empowered to give them away. She had brought them for the distressed at Castlethorpe, and he thought they would prove very useful indeed (applause).-Mr. A. Chandler proposed that the Parish Council act as Committee.-This being duly seconded, was carried unanimously.-Mr. S. Wheldon moved that the meeting elect the co-opted members, which should number five. This being put, was also carried.-It was decided, on the proposition of Mr. Chandler, seconded by Mr. Wheldon, that the additional members consist of three ladies and two gentlemen.-The following were elected to serve with the Parish Council: Mrs. Atkinson, Mrs. Whiting, Mrs. Wynne, Mr. D. Cowley, and Mr. A. Chandler. The members of the Parish Council are: Mr. A. Masterman (chairman), Mr. G. C. Nichols (vice-chairman), Mr. H. Wallach, Mr. J. Luing, and Mr. C. Whiting.

The chairman suggested that as the needs of the people were urgent it would be well for the Committee to meet directly after the meeting to consider the distribution of clothing and other matters which were required immediate attention. The name of Mrs. Borett of Hatton Court, was suggested as a member of the Committee, but as it had been appointed it was she could still work for the object, as the Committee were open to receive advise. The meeting closed with hearty thanks to the Chairman, on the proposition of Mr. Wallach, seconded by Mr. Luing.

It was announced during the meeting by Mr. Carter Jonas that Earl Carrington wished to express his sympathy with all who had sustained loss, and he sent £25 to alleviate their suffering. The Duke of Grafton sent £10, while sums of £5 were announced from Mr. W. W. Carlile, the Hon. T. F. Fremantle, Mr. Wallach, Mr. A. Burr and Mrs. Atkinson, Mr. C. Whiting gave £3, Mr. A. Masterman £2, and Mr. J. Feasey £1, while some of the collecting boxes which were opened contained £4 11s. 8d.

Lord and Lady Carrington visited Castlethorpe on Saturday morning and viewed the ruins.

Northampton Mercury 11 August 1905

The little picturesque village Eydon was recently devastated ; still more recently Wollaston gave forth its lesson the loss of three human lives; and now Castlethorpe has become a prey to the devouring element, and the same day Rushden and Wootton had outbreaks, the two latter, fortunately, confined to the buildings in which the fire originated. But at Castlethorpe the case was different, and the consequences serious. A spark from engine is supposed to have been the cause of the outbreak. as most of our readers are aware, stands close to the London and North-Western Railway main line, about two and a-half miles on the Northampton side of Wolverton. A fierce north-westerly gale was blowing, and it is supposed the wind carried sparks from a London express to the thatched stabling about a hundred yards from the line. The flames spread with such rapidity that the cottagers had time to rescue the greater part of their goods. The Stony Stratford Brigade and the London and North-Western Brigade from the Wolverton Works were soon on the spot, but the gale and the scarcity of water handicapped their efforts, and eleven cottages and a stretch of stabling were destroyed Such incidents as this occurring on the side of the line should compel further attention to the question of engines emitting sparks. Unfortunately—or fortunately, according to whether the picturesque dominates in the mind of the person—country villages are not all clear of thatch-roofed houses, when the snorting iron horse tears along, belching forth great quantities burning coal, the result as seen at Castlethorpe, is often disastrous.

Northampton Mercury 11 August 1905


PEOPLE HOMELESS Locally, are experiencing a remarkable series of serious fires. But a very short time since Eydon, one of the most picturesque villages to be found in a part of Northamptonshire essentially picturesque, was visited by conflagration which brought distress upon many simple homes; only a fortnight ago Wollaston, fire, not satisfied with the mere destruction of property, took human lives; and the latest place into which it has carried destruction is Castlethorpe, where on Friday a calamitous outbreak devastated a not inconsiderable portion of the village. Castlethorpe is eminently rural in character, and the disaster violently disturbed its normally peaceful atmosphere. Resembling other places where the modernising spirit has not been active, the village possesses great proportion of houses whose roofs are made of thatch, highly inflammable, although picturesque. To some extent the existence of these easily ignitable house-coverings explains the dimensions of the fire of Friday.
Its origin will, probably, ever be shrouded in mystery. For a time it will doubtless form a theme on which the villagers will indulge in speculations. Generally the fire on Friday was attributed to the flying of sparks from engine travelling along the North-Western system, which forms a sort of southern boundary to the village. The explanation may or may not be the true one. It has the merit of possibility. The flames were bound to spread with great rapidity, for the fates seemed determined to assist the progress of the fire. Not only did the existence of thatches help it, but it was aided by exceptional wind, a gale of extraordinary fury, ideal for fomenting flames, was blowing. The burning material was carried from house to house with a rapidity which made the efforts to combat the flames, necessity not very formidable, absolutely futile. For a time the villagers were in a state of utter hopelessness. Castlethorpe is badly equipped for such an emergency. Ordinarily its water supply is from wells, which, in the event of a fire may be practically disregarded. The river is some distance off, and is, of course, only valuable providing that powerful steamers can be secured for its aid; and its pools proved, as would those in many other villages with such great demands upon their resources, hopelessly incapable for the purpose of adequately dealing with great fire.
Soon after half-past two in the afternoon the flames, which in such a wonderfully short time wrought such terrible havoc, were first seen. Colour to the theory of the sparks is lent by the fact that but a few moments previously the engine said to have been emitting them passed the village. The distinction of having discovered the outbreak belongs to Mrs. Jones, who, with Miss Tooth, lives in a house in what Castlethorpe, with its love of simple nomenclature, calls its Backstreet —the thoroughfare closest to the railway line The building on which the evil sparks apparently alighted was barn rented by Mr. Arthur Masterman, the landlord of the Carrington Arms. Its thatched roof was, when Mrs. Jones perceived it, completely involved in flames. But the flames were not long content to devote their energies exclusively to a barn. Soon they involved within their scope a considerable block of stables near in the occupation of Countess Bosdiri. The highly combustible thatches burnt furiously. Speedily the conflagration grew. After having completely involved the buildings on the southern side of the road, the fire extended its operations to the other. Few moments seemed to the amazed onlookers to have passed before it was one mass of flame. The progress of the fire continued swiftly. Near by, separated by one of those pieces of garden ground on which the thrifty cottager cultivates the vegetable produce with which to feed his household, stood three cottages ancient and, with their roofs of thatch, picturesque. Their fate was quickly sealed, and the fire with its insatiable appetite sought further fuel. As fire often does, it behaved whimsically. Some considerable distance from Backstreet runs a row of somewhat dingy houses placed behind and running parallel with those which had their fronts in Front-street —a thoroughfare which faces the magnificent parish church and has a view of the fine country to the north. In the row of cottages facing the street the fire did its greatest mischief. The intervening row of houses —in what are called Varney’s and Lack's yards—remained practically unhurt. The burning material transported by the winds travelled over them and involved those beyond. The explanation is simple. Those which escaped had roofs of slate, and those which became victims of the flames had, with one exception, roofs of straw. While all this was happening the villagers did not, course, content themselves with idle despair, but instead displayed much activity. The countryman has a sympathetic temperament and usually a strong arm. A host of men, unable because of the village’s lack of proper apparatus to do anything to impede the progress of the fire, concentrated their efforts upon the rescue of the furniture of their distressed neighbours. They were not exceedingly successful. News of the conflagration had travelled with a speed, comparable to that of the flames themselves through the surrounding neighbourhood. Messengers with urgent appeals for aid reached Wolverton and Stony Stratford—the two nearest places in a position to give help. At Wolverton the story of the fire, exaggerated in the course of its progress, created something like dismay. In the railway works are employed many men who at Castlethorpe have their homes, for whose safety they were anxious. The railway authorities behaved nobly. The men of Castlethorpe were permitted to leave their employment and for their benefit the express which ordinarily dashes through Wolverton about four o’clock was stopped by special signal. Half an hour later another batch of men were despatched to the village by a special, which took the place of the workmen’s train, whose ordinary time is 5.30.
A considerable time before this, firemen appeared upon the scene. The Stony Stratford Brigade, with their manual, reached Castlethorpe first, and they were followed by the Brigade connected with Wolverton Works, with both steamer and manual. There was little prospect of their saving any of the buildings involved, because already most of them were a mass of flame. Unfortunately, however, the steamer which might have been of great assistance in combatting the flames could not be utilised, because it is solely constructed to run on metals; and stationed on the line with the river nearly half mile away it was useless. Recourse was first had to Mr. Holt’s pond, a quarter of a mile distant. Its resources were soon exhausted. Then the firemen obtained their supply from Mr. Whiting’s pond, where the water was so shallow that they were soon pouring on to the flames what was more or less liquid mud. Still the Stony Stratford men, under Captain Downing, and the Wolverton men, under Captain Hilyard, worked heroically to preserve from serious injury houses not already involved, and in this they were gratifyingly successful. Two of the most remarkable escapes were those of Miss Tooth’s house, near which considerable stabling was destroyed, and to whose walls clings venerable fruit tree, which was completely burned, and Mrs. Brown’s bakehouse—once, by the way, a public-house possessing the wonderful name of Tom and Jerry . Besides the stabling and farm buildings, there were utterly destroyed in Back-street three cottages and in Front-street eight. The dispossessed tenants are: —Mrs. Clark, a widow, with two sons; Mr. Jesse Lambert, a labourer, with a wife and one son; ; Mr. E. Powell, labourer, and parish constable, with a wife and one son; Mr. Joseph Smith, a labourer, with wife and large family; Mrs. Brown, a widow; Mr. John Evans, painter, with a wife and four children; Mr. F. Wills, labourer, with a wife and one child; Mr. J. Clark, a single labourer; Mr. W. Gray, with a wife and one child; Mrs. Vials, widow, and Mrs. Nichols; Mr. William Worker, a platelayer, with wife and four children.
Until it was absolutely necessary to desist, those engaged on the work of rescue valiantly continued their efforts. All manner of household furniture was extricated, although it represented but a very small proportion of the contents of the houses which were gutted. Without respect of persons, the villagers assisted in the work. Principally, of course, the suffering will fall upon the poor people, who have in many cases lost their entire possessions. Several were distraught they watched the destruction of their homes. Practically all the householders belong to the poorer class. Tales of the great hardship which it will in some cases occasion were common. A meeting was held in the village school at Castlethorpe on Saturday evening to establish a relief fund for the sufferers. Mr. W. W. Carlile, M.P., presided, and upon that gentleman’s suggestion the members of the Parish Council were appointed as a committee to receive and distribute gifts in money and kind. The following were added to the committee: Mrs. Atkinson, Mrs. Whiting, Mrs. Wynne, Mr. D. Courley, and Mr. A. Chandler. Mr. Carter Jonas, agent to Earl Carrington, announced that his lordship wished to express his sympathy with all who had sustained loss, and had sent £25 to alleviate their suffering. The Duke of Grafton sent £10. while sums of £5 were announced from Mr. W. W. Carlile, the Hon. T. F. Fremantle, Mr. Wallach, Mr. A. Burr, and Mrs. Atkinson; Mr. C. Whiting gave £3, Mr. A. Masterman £2, and Mr. J. Feasey £l. Several collecting boxes which were opened contained in all 11s. 8d.

The Bucks Standard 26 August 1905

The Recent Disastrous Fire.- In our report of the disastrous fire in this village, published in our issue for August 12, we stated the “after the second pond had been exhausted the village wells were drawn from, and later another useful supply was placed at the brigade’s disposal by Mr. and Mrs. Wallach.” There is an error in this statement, for there is no Mrs. Wallach, and what we ought to have said was “Thanks were due to Mr. Wallach, whose lady housekeeper Mrs. Briffina), acting on his behalf in his temporary absence at his town house in London, placed the supply of water at his hunting box at the disposal of the brigade.” We gladly make this correction, at the special request of Mrs. Briffina, and we very much regret that the error inadvertently appeared in our report.

The Bucks Standard 08 November 1905

FIRE RELIEF FUND. – It appears from the balance sheet of the above fund that the efforts of the committee have resulted in a very gratifying financial success. The total amount subscribed is £298 8s 7½d. This sum, with the exception of management expenses such as printing, advertising, postage and receipt stamps, stationary &c. has been divided between those unfortunate ones who suffered in various ways through the late disastrous fire. The task has not been a light one, as all would readily admit who have had experience in organising a relief fund. There has been an immense amount of work done and done most efficiently. After the charitably disposed persons had responded so liberally to the appeal for help, there yet remained the responsibility of administering the fund. A thoroughly representative committee dealt with each case upon its merits, guarding themselves sedulously against imposition. The fullest investigation was made without fear or favour, and in this way they were enabled to arrive at a fairly accurate estimate of each person’s loss. The fund placed at the disposal of the committee, supplemented by gifts of warm clothing, blankets &c., so appropriately sent from far and near, proved sufficient to alleviate immediate distress the day following the fire, and finally to compensate adequately the sufferers for the loss sustained and for which no doubt they are all exceedingly grateful. The hon. sec. Mr. Thos. Osborne, and Mr. A. Masterman, treasurer, deserve the highest praise for their able and untiring efforts, which must have contributed largely to the success of the undertaking. Castlethorpe has been conspicuously free from fires considering the number of thatched buildings there are in the village and their contiguity to the main line of the L. &. N.W. Ry. We sincerely hope that cottage accommodation will soon be provided for all those families who were so ruthlessly burnt out, and that the experience of August 4th will never be repeated.

Northampton Mercury 09 November 1906

Bucks County Council has accepted from Earl Carrington an offer to add to the road in the village of Castlethorpe, a strip of ground recently occupied by some cottages which were burnt down, thereby improving the width of the road very considerably.

Northampton Mercury 22 July 1927


The Wolverton Works Fire Brigade were called to a rick fire at Castlethorpe at 8.20 on Wednesday evening.
They found a small rick of wheat straw, about ten tons, well alight, and after about two hours’ work the fire was got under. Very little of the rick, which belonged to Mr. James Gobby, was saved.

Northampton Mercury 24 August 1928

Wolverton Works Fire Brigade was called out to a rick fire on Saturday and again Sunday. A rick on the farm of Mr. Markham, of Castlethorpe, was involved each occasion. Water was obtained from the river close by.

Northampton Mercury 15 July 1932


The Wolverton Works Fire Brigade had to turn out to two outbreaks in less than six hours, having to deal with a burning haystack, and lorry on fire the Watling-street.
The rick, containing 20 tons of hay, was on the farm of Mrs. Markham, Castlethorpe, and the flames threatened three other ricks and the farm buildings. Fortunately, there was no wind, and before the brigade arrived Messrs. Markham were assisted by farm hands keeping the other ricks from danger. The brigade turned out under Sub Captain H. A. Canvin, and worked hard in confining the outbreak to the one rick, little of which was saved. The lorry, the rear part of which was saved from destruction, caught fire near Denbigh Hall, Bletchley.

Northampton Mercury 05 August 1932


The Wolverton Works Fire Brigade made a prompt turn-out to a rick fire on Mr. J. E. Whiting’s farm at Castlethorpe, shortly after nine o’clock on Saturday night. A portion the rick was saved, and the firemen, under Sergt. Adams, prevented another rick, three or four yards away, from catching alight. The brigade was at work until 11 o’clock yesterday morning.

The Wolverton Express 04 March 1949



Detached Empty House


Whilst on duty in the railway signal-box at Castlethorpe in the early hours of Tuesday morning Mr. Jesse Robinson saw flames coming from Langton House, which is also close beside the main line near Castlethorpe Station, and immediately gave the fire alarm.

Wolverton firemen under Leading Fireman H. Skinner, made a smart turn-out with the major pump, but before their arrival, shortly before 1 a.m. the roof of the house had collapsed. A tender followed, under Sub-Officer A. Yates.

Although the house held no furniture a big blaze raged for several hours, and the Brigade did not arrive back at Wolverton station until 7 a.m.

Injuries were sustained by two Wolverton firemen Bob Cockerill had two stitches inserted in a cut hand, and Les Clarke had a badly-burned right hand and sprained wrist when pinned to the ground by falling debris.

Langton House was bought by Mr. Thomas Thomas, of Lincoln Lodge Farm, Castlethorpe, in January of this year for £1,650, and he intended putting it into use. It is a detached house with stabling. Fortunately, the gale wind blew flames towards the railway lines away from the outbuildings, and a row of near-by cottages. Only on the previous day had water been laid on to the house, while other workmen were on the premises until the middle of the evening. The property is covered by insurance.

The firemen appreciated the kind gesture of Mr. W. T. Clarke, florist, of Castlethorpe, who supplied them with tea at intervals during their six-hour stay.

Water Question Raised

At Council Meeting

At Newport Pagnell Council meeting on Wednesday, Mr. W. D. Markham, the representative for Castlethorpe, said there were two engines at the fire and for half-an-hour used the small pipe which did not give any pressure at all. Could they have a report on the efficiency of fire fighting? If the house had not been detached the result might have been serious.

Col. J. P. W.ness (Chairman) Why didn’t they go to the river?

Mr. Markham: I understand they did not have enough hose.

Col. J. Williams: That is their fault.

A report is to be forth-coming.

The Wolverton Express 06 May 1949


Chief Officer’s Explanation:

Insufficient Hose.

Arising from a complaint made by Mr. W. D. Markham, Castlethorpe’s representative on the Newport Pagnell Rural District Council as to the available fire fighting facilities, arising out of a fire at Langton House, Castlethorpe, six weeks ago, a letter of explanation was read from Buckinghamshire’s Chief Fire Officer at a full meeting of the Council held on Wednesday 27th April.

The letter from Mr. E. G. Hobbs (Chief Fire Officer for Buckinghamshire) stated that “the pressure of water in the main was insufficient to support effective fire fighting jets. The main passing the property is recorded as being of 3-inche diameter, although at one point in its route there is a short run of 2-inch diameter pipe. While this restriction naturally creates a frictional loss the effect of it on the flow of water would be very small. You will, of course, appreciate that the fire brigade is principally interested in the quantity rather than pressure of water, as deficiencies in the latter can be made good by the utilization of fire pumps. In fact it would be true to say that there are very few places in this county where unaided, both quantity and pressure of water mains can be considered adequate for fire fighting purposes. It will be my ultimate aim for each fire station in the county to be equipped with at least one appliance carrying its own water supply. In the Castlethorpe area the first attendance of fire appliances includes one such machine from Wolverton, and this machine attended the fire in question. The quantity of water obtained from the main, supplemented by the tank capacity of the water tender, proved sufficient for fire fighting requirements on this occasion.

“As has probably been reported to you the fire had reached a very advanced stage on the arrival of the brigade and its intensity was fanned by the severe gale which was blowing at the time. The efforts of the brigade, therefore, had to be directed to the confinement of the fire to the extent it had gone upon their arrival and to prevent its spreading to the adjoining stable block. In both these endeavours, they were entirely successful, using the water available from the main and contents of the water tender tank. The application of large quantities of water even had they been readily available, would not have been in the interests of fire fighting technique, for unnecessary water damage would undoubtedly have been caused on the ground floor.

“The fire brigade would naturally welcome the presence of water mains of not less than 4-inch diameter where property is at risk. As a result of past planning, however, more often than not we find considerable stretches of 3-inch main have been laid and, of course, Castlethorpe falls within this category. Unfortunately, there many centres of community within the county where no mains water is available at all, and compared with this Castlethorpe is fortunate. Many years must inevitably elapse before water supply arrangements in the county as a whole can be considered reasonably adequate for fire fighting, and for this reason it will be my policy progressively to equip each station with an appliance carrying its own water supply.”

Plenty of Water-Not Enough


Mr. W. D. Markham said that there was a large quantity of water 800 yards from the fire and with a road approach. This might easily have been taken advantage of the brigade had sufficient hose to cover that distance, but they had not got 500 yards with them. He contended that when they came to Castlethorpe or to any other village they should come with sufficient hose to get to the bulk water supply. What use was it bringing two engines if they had not got enough hose to reach the water that was availably.” They admitted that the water in the main was not sufficient.

Mr. S. W. Lord said he had previously expressed his disapproval that the fire brigade did not carry the length of hose which Olney Brigade used to carry. The water in pits and rivers was not drawn upon as it should be for fire fighting purposes.

Col. J. Williams: It has been our grievance that the hose reel which used to be on our tender was scrapped by the N.F.S. We always carried half a mile of hose and that was sufficient for all practical purposes; and that half-mile of hose was not in odd lengths but coupled up on a drum so that the firemen could run it out as they went along. We should tell them that we would like the reels introduced again.

Mr. H. J. Osborn said there were three big fires during war period and they experienced no difficulty in dealing with the outbreaks at that time.

Mr. Markham agreed.

Mr. Lord: We had the reels then.

Col. Byam-Grounds complained that the county fire authority did not go round and see what equipment was required in each parish to adequately deal with an outbreak of fire. They should certainly ascertain where they could fine the nearest water and take enough hose to reach it.

Should Provide Sufficient Hose

Mr. E. D. Sykes: What have they done with those lengths of hose?

The Chairman: Scrapped. He reiterated that the mains were not laid for fire extinguishing purposes: they were only used for fires when their capacity allowed. “We can’t undertake to lay mains to extinguish fires in every quarter of 100 square miles.” he said. “It would be entail an expense which even the Socialist Government would recoil from.” With regard to the hose reels he agreed that they should put in a strong representation that in the report from the Chief Fire Officer no mention was made of the use of reels, which was part of the equipment when that Council had charge of the fire brigade and which was the proper answer to a great number of the situations that would arise in that rural area. He added that they had plenty of static water but not enough hose, and that was due to the fact that they had dropped what had been provided.

Mr. Markham proposed that the county fire authority be asked to provide sufficient hose to reach static water in rural area on the same principle as the rural district authority used when they had control.

Mr. R. Meakins seconded.

Mr. S. W. Lord said he attended a meting of the Fire Brigade Committee at Aylesbury, and he raised the question of the static water tank at Haversham, and he was assured it was going to have attention. He would follow the matter up.

The resolution was carried, and it was agreed that the views of the Council should be sent not only to the Chief Fire Office for the County but also to the Chairman of the County Fire Brigade Committee (Ald. Dulley).

The Wolverton Express 08 April 1949


Villagers’ Good Work

Prevents Serious


What could have developed into a serious fire at Castlethorpe on Monday evening was prevented by villagers who, forming a human chain, passed bucket after bucket of water to quell flames in the roof of a brick-built and tiled-roof barn in New Road. A number of valuable rabbits were rescued as also were several head of poultry.

The barn is the property of Mr. Jack Brown, a well-known fancier, and stands by the side of the railway line. He was at work in Wolverton Railway Works when the fire was discovered at about 8.30 p.m. Mr. H. Gray was the first to notice the flames coming from the roof of the building, which was at one time a blacksmith’s shop. Mrs. Brown was informed of the fire and brigades were summoned from Newport Pagnell and Wolverton. Until their arrival many villagers, led by Mr. Gerald Hall, Mr. George Wootton, and Mr. Harry Gray, maintained, a good supply of water by the bucket system, water being obtained from a pump. By the time the first brigade arrived – Newport Pagnell - the fire was under control. Fortunately the flames were confined to the roof of the building. Other buildings were in the vicinity and a serious fire might have developed but for the prompt actions and efficient work of the villagers.

The fire was only a short distance from the fire in the village a month ago, although on the opposite side of the railway line. Local residence advance the opinion that the fire started from a spark from the railway engine, although some people dismiss this probability. At the time the building was locked up and no one was seen about.

Northampton Mercury 29 August 1952


Six tons of stacked wheat and quantities of baled straw were involved in a fire at Mayes Farm, Castlethorpe, on Wednesday. The fire was in a field bordering the railway line. Firemen from Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell were called to a blazing field of stubble at Hungate End Farm, Hanslope yesterday. The outbreak was dealt with quickly. The farm is owned by Mr. G. A. Hillman.