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Mill Lane, Fire at Rea and Fisher's Oak Bark Tannery, 7 March 1905

A large crowd gathered on Mill Lane to watch the destruction of part of Rea and Fisher's large leather tannery; it caused several thousand pounds worth of damage. There appear to be children, teenage boys alongside men and women of all ages packed into a small area on Mill Lane. It is astonishing how close to the buildings the people were standing, although it looks as if the fire had largely been extinguished by the time this picture was taken.

Thomas Rea, the owner, was born in Arbroath in 1831 and he was an important public figure in the town. When he was elected to represent Godalming (South Division) as a County Councillor in 1889 he had already served as the town's mayor twice, having been first elected to the Corporation in 1857. The Oak Bark Tannery employed a large number of people and he had already spend £15,000 in enlarging the buildings which was a considerable sum for the time[1]. This fire would have caused hardship, at least for a short time, for some families.

Two newspaper reports describing the fire are below:

London Daily News, 8 March 1905
Early yesterday morning disastrous fire occurred at Godalming, the large factory Messrs. Rea and Fisher, leather merchants, being almost entirely destroyed. By the side the factory are a number of old cottages, which have been the subject of many artists' brushes. Through the exertion of the brigade these were saved.

Pall Mall Gazette, 7 March 1905
Disastrous Fire at Godalming.
A disastrous fire broke out at Messrs. Rea and Fisher's tannery at Godalming, this morning, the large factory standing near the station being completely destroyed, with the machinery and stock. The damage amounts to several pounds. Both the Godalming and Guildford brigades were engaged for three hours at the fire. Several firemen had narrow escapes when one of the large walls collapsed.-Central News.

"Fire at Messrs. Rea, Sons & Fisher's Godalming, March 7th 1905". Published by Craddock, Printer & Publishing, Godalming. Posted 6 Apr 1905 at Godalming. A message on the back reads: "at last I am sending you the promised PC of the fire".
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Surrey Gazette", 22 & 24 January 1889. The County Councils.

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