BIG FIRE AT BRAMFORD – FLOUR MILL GUTTED
As a result of a fire which broke out on Thursday morning one of the landmarks on the River Gipping has been destroyed, the outbreak being attended with no small pecuniary loss. But more serious than the momentary loss is the fact that a large quantity of grain, consisting of corn, oats, barley and maize, which can ill be spared at the present juncture, has been lost for feeding purposes. The premises involved are the mill at Bramford, in the occupation of Messrs. Cooper and Cooper, grist millers and poultry food manufacturers, of Bramford and Ipswich.
Mr William Cooper arrived at the mill at 6 am when everything was normal for the start of the day’s work. About ¾ of an hour later Mr Cooper had occasion to go to the fourth floor of the mill, and here he discovered a lighted hurricane lamp which had been used by one of the employees, a lad named Percy Gardiner, and which had been left standing on part of the machinery, a reciprocating sieve. The oscillation had caused the lamp to fall to the floor, and, the paraffin escaping, when Mr Cooper arrived on the scene the flames had taken a good hold in the floor.
Mr Cooper attempted to extinguish the outbreak, but had to desist owing to the heat and smoke and beat a retreat. He at once tried to telephone Messrs Packard’s Works, where a steam fire-engine is stationed, but was unable to get his message through, so a cyclist was despatched to secure the assistance of the engine. By this time the fire had established a firm hold in the upper stories, which were of wood, and the smoke attracted the attention of the superintendent of the Bramford Brigade, who at once turned out with the hose, which was connected to the Ipswich main, in which there is a hydrant in the cartway by the Mill. The hose was soon in play, and the efforts of the local brigade were directed to saving two houses in close proximity to the mill. Messrs Packard’s engine was now on the scene, and, thanks to the combined efforts, the houses were saved, thought the weather-boarded fronts were blistered by the heat. By this time the weather-boarded upper stories of the mill were burning fiercely, the flames rising to a great height, and about 8.30 the roof and upper floors, on which there was a lot of heavy machinery, fell through with a crash, accompanied by a huge upwards burst of fire and sparks.
The efforts of the firemen were now directed to subduing the fiery mass in the centre of the mill. There was no lack of water, fortunately, owing to the proximity of the river, and two powerful jets were projected into the heart of the mill, and by half-past eleven the fire was so well in hand that the Works steamer was taken off, though heavy smoke was still issuing from the back of the ruins; and there is every prospect of the sodden grain, much of which was in sacks, continuing to smoulder for days.
At the time of the outbreak the building was full of grain, a lot of which should have gone away early in the week but for the congestion on the railway. The amount of damage cannot at present be ascertained but it is considerable. Fortunately Messrs Cooper and Cooper, both the buildings and the contents are insured.
The mill, which was erected about 60 years ago, was in years gone by the largest flour mill on the Gipping between Ipswich and Stowmarket, there being 11 pairs of stones. In recent years it has been transformed into an up-to-date grist mill, with improved machinery, and a large business in the manufacture of poultry food was carried on.
With its surrounding of trees, the mill, especially in the early summer, presented a pretty picture, and the district will suffer, from an artistic point of view, from the loss.
Note: At this time, well into WW1, the lost grain will have been greatly missed.
Bramford Fire Appliance was purchased in 1914 for the huge sum (at the time) of £28 12s 6d, the first time it was used was at the flour mill and a bill was sent to the Messrs cooper and Cooper for costs incurred – 119 hours work at 1/- and hour, plus replacements for damaged boots and hose pipes- Total £15 9s 6d. George Hardwicke started work there in 1906, working 11 hours a day at a starting wage of 2/6d (12p) a week. At the age of 16 his wage increased to 4s (20p) a week, and at 18 to 10s (50p). He worked there for 9 years.