The Great Fire of Sydenham

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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The Great Fire of Sydenham

Post by regoneil »

The Great Sydenham Fire - Sydenham in theTwenties.

It was in the late twenties when one lunch time, as we were coming out of school to go home for our lunch, (there was no such thing as meals served at schools in those days, or for parents to collect us kids in cars, we had to make our own way home). But on this occasion, as we looked along the road, opposite St. Michaels school entrance, we could see clouds of black smoke arising from the South Suburban Gas Works, which occupied a large area of Lower Sydenham at that time, (today, partly covered by a Sainsbury store). As you can well imagine, there was an immediate rush to find out what was happening and there was a stampede to get as near as possible to witness the action.

These works were surrounded by a high brick wall which surrounded the site along Southend Lane, as far as the bridge over the River Pool. It was along this section of the road that was used to park omnibuses of the 112 route that terminated at Bell Green and were temporarily out of service, which the top decks proved to be a means of overlooking the wall for us kids and, may I say, some of our teachers. Great excitement as we all gathered on the top decks of the buses to see what was going on as firemen in their brass helmets tackled the fire.
At about 2pm the fire brigade had the situation under control and the bus men became agitated and concerned about their time table so many of us made our way home and back to school where we were met by the head master and teachers and accused of being late. No sympathy was given for those who had missed their lunch.

For us kids, it was a day to remember as it was not often that we had the opportunity to witness the London Fire Brigade in action. It was considered a treat to witness them when called out for a false alarm,

Our parents would tell us tales of when the fire brigade used horses to pull the pumps which also pulled the horse drawn omnibuses and were stabled at Tillings Farm at the top of Perry Hill, but that was pre 1920.

Many years later, we were to witness the dramatic destruction of the Crystal Palace, but that is another story.

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Re: The Great Fire of Sydenham

Post by Pally »

Great story. Can I ask which school you went to ...was it St Michaels as you mentioned or maybe you were passing that on your way home?

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Re: The Great Fire of Sydenham

Post by bensonby »

Unfortunately Reg died a few years ago.

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