Sandford : Fire of 1870
Sandford on the Wannon River
Glenelg & Wannon Region, South West Victoria, Australia
"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Wednesday, 26th January 1870.

As misfortunes seldom come singly, it has fallen to our lot to record another disaster. It appears that on Sunday night a fire occurred in the kitchen of Harris' store at Sandford, which soon spread to the adjoining Sandford Hotel, kept by Mr. George Southern. A portion of the furniture was got out, but the store and hotel are described as completely gutted. The hotel was purchased some time ago by Mr. Southern for 1200, but complications have since arisen, and it is not yet known exactly upon whom the loss will fall. We are not aware whether the premises were insured.

"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Saturday, 29th January 1870.


We have received further particulars of this disaster, and feel bound to say that the affair bears a rather mysterious aspect. The fire began in the kitchen of Harris's store as previously mentioned, at about noon on Sunday. One of the neighbours, a female, saw flames proceeding from the building, and gave the alarm. After a great deal of trouble, Mr. Harris, who was said to be taking his breakfast in the store, was made aware of what was going on. It was noticed that the fire did not proceed from the vicinity of the fire-place in the kitchen, but from an opposite direction. Soon the flames reached the shingles of Harris's store, and also caught the window-frames of Southern's ball-room adjoining. By this tine the people were coming out of church, and about sixty persons lent their assistance to endeavour to extinguish the fire. It was fortunate that it was "Chapel Sunday" at Sandford, otherwise the aid obtainable would have bean very limited, and the greater part of the township would have been sacrificed. Everyone will remember what sort of day Sunday was ; the heat being intense, and a fierce sirocco rendering everything as dry as tinder. Messrs. J. H Jackson, M'Evoy, and Nicholls, rendered good service and stationed themselves on the roof of the stable, which they managed to cover with wet blankets.
The heat was so great that it was difficult to pass buckets of water up to them without getting scorched, but they stood their ground bravely, and so saved this portion of the premises, whereby the fire was prevented from spreading. As it was, a haystack at the rear of Lesser's store was burnt, and the danger threatening the surrounding buildings was considerable. From the ball-room the fire soon spread to Southern's hotel, the roof of which being an old one, fell an easy prey to flames quickened by the breeze. The public then directed their attention to getting out the furniture, and they succeeded in removing most of it. A portion of the stock of wines, spirits, &c., was also saved, but there was a great deal of unavoidable destruction, particularly among bottled goods. There was very little in Harris's store to be removed, a waggon load of goods having been despatched about a fortnight previously in charge of the son of Mr. Harris who went on a hawking expedition. Another dray had been got ready to start, and was to have been despatched on Monday (the day after the fire). In a few hours the fire had burnt itself out, although it was found necessary for a few persons to watch the surrounding embers during the night.
Southern's premises, which were purchased by him for 1100 were not insured, at far as we know. 400 had been paid as a deposit on the premises, but a notice of ejectment had been served on him, as subsequent payments were in arrears. Only a few days previously Southern had paid off a bill of sale on his furniture, amounting to 240, held by Bostock and Chapman.
Harris's premises were rented at 40 a year, and his stock is supposed to have been insured. He at first denied that there was any insurances but subsequently stated he had left 40 with his agent in Melbourne to take out policies for 800 ; but could not say whether the agent had done so. There is also statement about two letters said to contain 700 being destroyed by the fire, but whether this was true or not we cannot undertake to say. Harris had been living about twelve months in the place, and there were frequent quarrels between his wife and himself, one of these domestic broils occurring on the morning of the fire.
It appears to us that facts of the case demand investigation, and that an inquest on the fire would not be out of place.

Back to ...

Sandford Main Page

Sandford Pioneer Names