Destroyed by fire

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 04-Jan-2018

The Sydenham Gardens Hotel.

Previously I mentioned that frequently in the 19th century the kitchen was constructed as a separate building, primarily because of the risk of fire.

Wood was used for heating, not only for the cooking stove but warming rooms and importantly in the wash house or laundry. 

Fires were lit underneath the wash house copper which was filled with water and the washing along with soap being inserted. Boiling the fabrics helped free the dirt and grease from them.

On the night of January 25, 1898 the occupants of the Sydenham Gardens Hotel were in the billiard room playing a friendly game of Euchre. 

The group consisted of the then hotel licensee Mrs Donaldson, her niece Miss Duclos, a visitor from Harcourt, Miss Ferris, and the hotel groom Thomas Baker.

Just before 10.30pm a fire was noticed by neighbour Charles West, who alerted the group that the end bedrooms in that wing of the building were ablaze.

Almost at the same time the fire watchman on duty in the tower of the Central School (Camp Hill) also noticed the glow of the fire and alerted by telephone the No1 Brigade. 

When the brigade with their horse pulled hose reel and engine were on the road towards North Bendigo/Jackass Flat they realised that the fire was at the Sydenham Gardens.

The nearest fire plug was a considerable distance from the fire and their hose was of insufficient length, fortunately the Long Gully Brigade had also come on to the scene. 

The hoses of the Long Gully Brigade were connected to those of the No 1 Brigade but when the water was turned on it was a mere trickle. 

The nearest other fire plug was in the Ironbark Chinese Camp, just under a kilometre from the fire, however the water pressure there was far better.

In the meantime a message had been sent to the Temperance Fire Brigade situated at the rear of the Masonic Temple (Capital Theatre) in View Street.

Unfortunately, through miss-communication this message had not been received, according to James Walker Secretary of the Temperance Fire Brigade, so their engine was not sent out.

As the firemen on the scene were unable to control the fire they joined with Thomas Baker and Charles West to rescue as much of the furniture as possible, two pianos, chairs, tables, and sundry items were saved. 

Two barrels of beer which had only been delivered earlier that day were also saved, as well is the liquor and cordials from the hotel bar itself.

The beer had been bought from Hunter Brothers Kent Brewery in McCrae Street, who were the owners of the hotel building. 

Mrs Donaldson had been the licensee of the Sydenham Gardens Hotel since the previous July, she took the fire very badly, and fainted a number of times.

Her husband, who had not been in good health, had been in Melbourne resting and recuperating, he was informed by telegram of the fire.

As unfortunately seems to happen there are always those people who wish to see the results of such a catastrophe for themselves. 

A temporary bar was set up in one of the surviving buildings, and all the saved beer, liquor and cordials were able to be dispensed to the gawking public. 


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