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Sky Lit by Flames

Mike Wilson, Local Writer and Historian

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At about nine o'clock on Saturday, October 20, 1906, Bridlington residents were started by a sound like the explosion of bombs and the sound of the alarm at the Electricity Works, announcing a fire.

The annual fair was in full swing on High Green [near Priory Church in Old Town], but the alarm was heard over and above the clamour of organs, bells and whistles there. Within a few seconds, fairgoers left High Green and people gathered to find out the location of the fire. Within seconds there was a rush to the fire station.

The New Spa Theatre was afire and within moments the sky was lit by a gigantic blaze, with sparks being carried inland by a southerly wind.

People left other places of amusement such as the People's Palace, the Grand Pavilion and Bostock's Show and made their way to the seafront.

The market and other businesses came almost to a standstill as people rushed in the direction of the Spa.

Captain Rennard, captain of the fire brigade, was on the scene early and, with the help of willing hands, a hose was attached to the hydrant in Marine Drive. Further hoses were connected to the water main in West Street. To the credit of the brigade, within a few minutes of the alarm every man was at his post. Onlookers crowded along Marine Drive, Pembroke Terrace and every available vantage point, watching with anxiety. Despite all efforts, nothing could be done to save the theatre and, with a terrific crash, the roof fell in. Flames and showers of red sparks spewed out, indicating the seriousness of the fire.

The local newspaper said: "The roar of flames, the noise of falling timber, the crash of heavy columns and girders, mingled with the hissing and cracking caused by the constant stream of water continued for a long time. The fire burned in a fierce red glow beneath suspended iron girders bent out of recognition by the intense heat. In the light could be seen only the skeleton of the former building. Windows and window frames, doors and porticos were either totally or partially demolished. For some time the ponderous steel columns stood erect amidst the mass of flames, but presently these fell with a mighty crash on the front side nearest the stage, carrying with it a large portion of wall." The efforts of the brigade saved buildings adjoining the Spa.

The head gardener at the Spa, Mr T. Baron, who lived in nearby Horsforth Avenue, was the first on the scene, after a warning from a boy who rushed into his shop saying he had seen smoke coming from the theatre. Mr Baron dashed to the theatre and closed the doors and turned off the gas. He also turned on the water to full pressure.

On the Sunday hundreds of sightseers from the town and neighbourhood came from all parts to witness the spectacle. Masses of charred wood were heaped in shapeless confusion, while not one window survived.

The stage end of the theatre was completely destroyed and only the skeleton of the front and back walls remained standing.

The newspaper ended its report: "Never before has there been such a terrible blaze in Bridlington, and perhaps never has the work of destruction been so rapid."