Tuesday 19 December 2017

Newark Malt kilns Ablaze

There’s usually only one reason malt kilns make it into newspapers: when they burn down.

Newark used to full of maltsters, both large and small. Look on old OS maps and there are malt kilns all over time, often just sandwiched between houses. I’m not sure I’d want to have a malt kiln in my back garden. Way too dangerous.


The whole of Newark was brilliantly illuminated a huge fire which broke out Tuesday night at the malt kilns of Messrs. Gilstrap Earp & Co., Ltd., in Northgate. The flames could be seen six miles away, and the glare was visible at Mansfield, eighteen miles away, Grantham, and other places miles from Newark. Many people from Nottingham, Grantham, Lincoln, and other places in the district helped to swell the crowd of thousands who watched the firemen’s efforts to check the flames.

An employee of the Firm, when passing the kilns shortly before seven o’clock, saw smoke coming through the roof. With another man, he entered the building and tried to put out the flames, but they were beaten back the fumes of burning malt. The whole of the building soon became involved, and the local Fire Brigade was faced With a formidable task, the Church of St. Leonard, across the street, the adjoining foundry of Messrs. Bradley, and the brewery of Messrs. Warwick & Richardson being in imminent danger. Help was sent by the Mansfield, Lincoln, and Carlton Brigades.

The fire started in what known as the Farnham Kiln, and police and firemen stood on the roof of another similar building, the Northgate Kiln, as  well as on roofs of neighbouring houses, to direct streams of water into the flames. The combined jets from the Brigades and from the equipment at the kilns were kept playing on the fire, but the blaze remained unchecked, and spread to the rear of the building. To add to the difficulties, burning and smouldering malt poured through the windows and

The Collapsing Floors
formed blazing heaps in their paths. Where the fire originated was gutted in a short time, and efforts were concentrated in an endeavour to prevent the outbreak from spreading to the Northgate Kiln.

The gutted, kiln. capacity of 120 quarters, and was lull malt, is valued roughly at £10,000, without the contents.

At 11.30 p.m. the fire was still burning fiercely, and the Northgate block was imminent danger, the connecting corridor of wood and being alight. The fire had also spread to Messrs. Bradley’s foundry.

The Chief Constable of Newark (Mr. J. McConnach), who was directing the fire fighting operations, had a narrow escape from serious injury when a roof collapsed while he was endeavouring to recover part of a hose which had become ignited through a burning mass of malt bursting through the lower windows of the kiln.

By midnight the fire was under control, and Messrs. Bradley’s foundry and the Northgate kiln block had been saved. Odd flickers of flame, however, necessitated the firemen remaining on the spot during the night. About sixty firemen had been engaged, each of the visiting Brigades bringing ten men. The Works’ Brigade of Messrs. Warwick & Richardson also did excellent volunteer work.”
Grantham Journal - Saturday 05 April 1930, page 8.

Gilstrap Earp & Co. was one of Newark’s big maltsters. I regularly come across malt described as “Gilstrap” in brewing records. That London brewers were using Gilstrap malt is a sign of its quality and the size of the company.

Both Gilstrap and Earp were mayors of Newark. Earp had also been a brewer as well as a maltster. The secondary school I attended was on a street named in his honour. I had absolutely no idea at the time of the brewing connection.

It must have been a pretty ginormous fire if it could be seen from Lincoln, Mansfield and Grantham. All of them are a good distance from Newark. There obviously wasn’t a great deal in the way of entertainment back then if thousands flocked to Newark just to see a fire.

Like many larger breweries, Warwicks had their own fire brigade. A wise precaution, especially if there were malt kilns nearby.

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