In 1858, Thomas Brooks was appointed 'pinder' (a dog catcher and pound keeper, or someone in charge of the pinfold') and issued the following warning of fire to people renting tenements on the waste ground (mainly on the Green). The ground rules posted on the church door carrying of fire from house to house, chimneys to be kept in good repair, no smoking in outbuildings and no fires in the streets. The pinfold was located at the bottom of Green Hill and Thomas did himself live on The Green and was described in the 1851 census as a 'pauper' aged 75. His wife Biddy was 11 years younger and was born in Galway. Their 4 adult children were all framework knitters still living at home. 

Below is information about the risk of fire in Victorian households - source : Trelawney Fire and Security

Society rapidly advanced during the Victorian era, as industrialisation kicked in and people became wealthier. Although a number of new inventions took place during this time, making life easier and more comfortable, Victorian homes were still full of hazards. In particular, fire was especially rife due to a number of factors.

Sanitary systems

We have Thomas Crapper to thank for the safer plumbing systems of the Victorian period - he established a new bathroom showroom and plumbing business in 1861. Prior to this, bathrooms in Victorian homes were risky places, with lavatories prone to exploding.

This was often because highly flammable gases from human waste, such as hydrogen sulphide and methane, would gather in sewers and leak back into homes. With the Victorians' fondness for using candles, a naked flame could easily ignite these flammable gases, causing a fire.

When Crapper developed new plumbing and sanitary systems, this reduced the risk of nasty gases leaking into the atmosphere, thus slashing the fire risk.


Candles and oil lamps were used to light homes during the Victorian era, and even when gas lighting and electricity became more common, many Victorians still used candlelight on most occasions to bring light to their abodes. Both candles and oil lamps were a fire hazard in homes at that time, especially if placed close to flammable fabrics or items made from celluloid.

At Christmas, the Victorians would traditionally decorate their trees with candles. This further increased the risk of starting a fire.

When gas was introduced to light homes during Victorian times, it was regarded as a revolution, but it was not without its risks. Coal gas contained a highly flammable cocktail of chemicals - sulphur, methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide. In particular, Victorians became fond of using chandeliers powered by gas, often producing large flames that could easily catch on nearby flammable fabrics.

As more and more 19th century homes began to rely on gas, the supply industry became more competitive. Due to the lack of regulation, suppliers often cut corners in a bid to outdo their rivals, which resulted in poor quality workmanship with the production of gas pipes and questionable safety standards. As a consequence, there was a surge in fires and explosions during this time.


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