Monday, December 19, 2011

The Grove and the fire of 1919.

The Grove before the fire.
On the night of the 24th of March 1919 The Grove was completely destroyed by fire.

The chimney has caught alight during the evening but it was thought the blaze had been extinguished. At about 11.00 p.m. the owner, Mr. E.R. Goolden and his son, Lieutenant Commander Massey Goolden, were reading in the library when they smelled smoke and discovered that the roof was on fire. The other occupants of the house, Mrs. Goolden and Miss Goolden and two elderly servants had already gone to bed. The Lieutenant Commander rescued the two ladies before summoning the fire brigade and the police.

Neighbours, including Colonel Ricardo from Lullebrook, helped rescue some of the family possessions but a great deal including was lost including books, pictures and silver, along with much antique furniture.

The fire got such a hold, and burned out of control, because (ironically) the river was in flood. The Cookham firemen – and there were only five of them – could not get their manual pumping engine from the fire station in Terry’s Lane and over the flooded Moor. They abandoned it and carried their hoses through the floodwater; only to find that the pressure in the hydrants near Cookham Bridge was too low.

Both Maidenhead Brigade and the High Wycombe Brigade were summoned to give assistance, but in both cases the water was too deep for their appliances to get through. The Goolden’s Bailiff – William Price (who had a nursery garden at Grove Farm) made valiant efforts to release the High Wycombe engine from the mud on Ferry Lane, but to no avail. Again the men waded to the scene but had not sufficient equipment to make any impression on the blaze.

By morning the house was completely destroyed and visitors flocked to see the ruins. A local journalist who had the war years fresh in his mind likened the scene to a piece ’outraged Ypres’, and pointed out how pathetic the Cookham Fire Brigade’s little hand-cart and a single length of hose looked as it stood on what had been the lawn of The Grove.

‘It was not a business, by far, for the hand-cart brigade.’ The writer went on to suggest making contingency plans for the co-operation with some larger brigades in the area in hope that ‘a few powerful motor engines would defy a flooded lane, and be down in time to be of use’. He also pointed out that if there were a proper bridge over Cookham Moor this problem would never have arisen.

In due course the house was rebuilt. The new Grove was not on exactly the same site as the previous one, being aligned differently towards the river.

David Ricardo, great nephew of the late Colonel Ricardo of Lullebrook Manor, gave these verbatim facts to me.

Of course a causeway and bridge was built across Cookham Moor thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Balfour-Allen in 1928. Now it is feared that bridge will not take the weight of present day traffic. One solution is to turn the present roadway into a second causeway and bridge able to withstand today’s weight of traffic.

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