Skip to content

Fire in Kyneton Victoria 1865

July 30, 2019

Recently I published a series of letters that my great great grandfather Thomas Waters wrote from Australia to family in Bedfordshire in the nineteenth century. In One of the letters, Thomas wrote that their house was burned down during the night. Following is the newspaper report of that fire.

Saturday, 17 June, 1865, The Leader, page 5

We take the following particulars of the fire at Kyneton, from the Observer: — ‘The town was startled between eight and nine o’clock on Saturday evening last, by the cry of fire resounding through the streets, and it was discovered that the row of wooden premises in Hutton-street facing the Independent Chapel was on fire. The smoke was first seen issuing from a two-story wooden building occupied by a person named Waters, and before any attempt could be made to save the building, it was in full flames.

Simultaneously, with the flames bursting forth from this house, they were also seen issuing from the house adjoining, an empty one, and which was part of the same building, but divided by a stone party wall. The wind was blowing strong at the time, and it soon became evident, that it would be a matter of impossibility, to save any of the wooden buildings adjacent to those on fire.

By the time the two houses were on fire, a large crowd assembled, and every effort was made to save the furniture and other effects in the blazing houses. A right-of-way divided the two houses now on fire, from another row of wooden cottages occupied by Miss Moresby as a ladies’ seminary, and these very soon fell victims to the devouring element, while on the other side of the buildings, where the fire originated, the house and shop of Mr Humphries quickly shared the same fate.

All being of wood, it was impossible to save them, and the wind, which was very strong during the whole time the fire was burning, blew the flakes of fire fiercely about and rendered it a difficult matter for those around to attempt to save the furniture within the burning buildings.

By considerable perseverance, however, nearly the whole of the furniture and other effects in Miss Moresby’s place were saved, and were taken over to the Catholic schoolroom opposite. But very little, if any, of the other sufferer’s (Mr Waters’s) were rescued from the place. At one time, it was feared that human life had fallen a sacrifice to the devouring element, some one shouting out that Mrs Waters’s children were still in the burning house.But it appeared that Constable McBride had rescued one child from the house before it was altogether enveloped in flames. The poor little thing was standing in the front room naked, and too frightened to make any movement for its own safety. Besides the cottages which were destroyed — five in number —there were several others, at the rear thereof, mostly occupied by poor people, and fortunately the wind changed in sufficient time to prevent their taking fire. It was also fortunate that no wooden buildings immediately faced the burning pile, as had there been any, they must not only have been destroyed but formed a connecting link to have carried the fire further on. One house on the opposite side of the way, but at a considerable angle with the houses on fire, caught several times, and it was only by the continued application of wet blankets it was saved from destruction.

From the time the fire first broke out, to the destruction of the entire group of buildings, scarcely an hour elapsed, but, during the time it lasted, the heat was most intense, and the entire town was lighted up.

The actual origin of the fire appears to be involved in mystery, though there is but little doubt it was in the rear of the empty house referred to, that it originated; and it is supposed that the workmen who were at work therein carelessly left a light burning. There were altogether five houses totally destroyed, and of course a considerable quantity of both Mr Humphries’s and Mr Waters’s furniture, &c.

We understand that Mr Humphries, the owner of the two houses where the fire first broke out, as well as the one adjoining, was insured, for the first £85, and for the latter £50. The others, which belonged to Mr Ellis, were uninsured.

But little, if any, water was obtainable during the whole time the fire was raging, nor was there any attempt beyond individual effort at saving property. Several towns people, as well as the Rev. Father Geoghegan, Mr Stiles, of the Bank of New South Wales, and other gentlemen, did good service, and materially aided in the removal of such things as were saved. Miss Moresby had recently taken the Crown Hotel as an academy, so that, fortunately, beyond the unavoidable loss by the removal of her furniture, she suffers no material inconvenience.



Please note: there is a line or two missing from the join in the pages. This was as it could be seen on Trove.

Punctuation and paragraphs have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading


From → Family stories

  1. Fire was (and is) such a common occurrence,especially in those days. Glad there was no loss of life.

  2. What a tragic story. How fortunate that only property, not lives, were lost. Firefighting has come a long way, but even today fires like these can consume adjacent buildings. Bravo to the neighbors for pitching in help out to save what they could.

  3. It is so sad they lost their house but how wonderful that no lives were lost. So great that everyone helped and fought the fire.

  4. Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

    What a devastating time…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Retirement Reflections

What I Wish I Knew Before I Retired

The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog

For mostly adult, literary, fiction; focusing on historical, contemporary, biographical, and women.

And Anyways...

Author, Baker, Sunrise Chaser

Barroworn Succulents

Succulents, Geraniums, Iris and much more. All grown on our local property

Kerryn's Kin

A Tribute to my ancestors by Kerryn Taylor

Next Phase In Fitness & Life

Over 60 and living my best life

'Genealogists for Families' project

Family History and Genealogy


Family History and Genealogy

Western District Families

Family history from the Western District of Victoria, Australia

%d bloggers like this: