A fire at Marina, St Leonards in 1863

The following account is from the Brighton Gazette, 19 February 1863.

 On Sunday morning a fire occurred in this town, and although, fortunately, unattended with no loss of life or personal injury, it resulted in considerable destruction of property, and but for the energy displayed in extinguishing it, would doubtless have been of a far more serious character than it was. The spot where the calamity occurred is at the west-end of Marina, a little beyond the Sussex Hotel, which forms the eastern boundary of the last row of houses in the front line. Most of the houses there are lodging-houses, and although not so large as others in the neighbourhood, they are property of a very valuable description. Three of these houses, Nos. 130, 131, and 132, the occupiers of which are respectfully [sic] Mr Winter, Mr Goodall, and Mrs Gordon, were completely destroyed, and the two adjoining houses, Nos. 129 and 133 – occupied by Miss Kempson and Mr Henry Carpenter, — were damaged, though not to a very serious extent. A considerable quantity of furniture was destroyed, or damaged in its removal, and in that respect the owners of several other adjoining houses suffered. Altogether the fire was of a more serious character than has been known in this locality for many years past.

 The Surrey Gazette for the 17 February 1863 had the following paragraph followed by a detailed description of the fire, which mentions fire engines attending.

 We are informed that the three houses which are burnt down were in the hands of mortgagees, the Law Insurance Company having considerable interest in them. It is understood that the furniture in each house was insured.

The origin of the fire does not appear to be known, but there is every reason to believe that it broke out in an office or ante-room at the back of No. 131, on the dining room floor, as the flames were seen issuing from the window of that room, when the alarm was first given to the neighbours at the back.

The Sussex Hotel was on the western side of Sussex Place. In 1862 it was renumbered from no. 100 to 110, its current house number. At the time of the fire there was Miss Kempson at no. 129 and Mr Goodall at no. 131, hence one house in between. Earlier, in the 1861 census, there was Miss Kempson at 118 Marina. She was 35, a teacher, single, born Birmingham, with a niece, cousin, three boarders and two servants. At no. 120 there was William Goodall, 55, a retired cheesemonger from Derbyshire, married but wife absent. Again with one house in between. This suggests that the renumbering that added ten to the number of the Sussex Hotel added eleven to these houses further west.

We are fortunate enough to have some information on what happened next. The 16 June 1863 issue of the Surrey Gazette had an advert for the sale by auction of freeholds on Marina in five lots.

Surrey Gazette, 16 June 1863. Sale of 128-132 Marina, St Leonards

These were two freehold houses partially damaged by fire, stated to be 128 and 129 Marina, the gardens in the rear, and the freehold with the materials of 130, 131 and 132 Marina, again with rear gardens.

We had been told that 130-132 had been completely destroyed, with 129 and 133 damaged. The photo below shows (in grey) 128 and 129, looking more modern than their neighbours, and, as an apparent block, to their left, 130-132. This does not quite match up with what we were told. As so often, there is probably more to the story.

Street view of (numbered from right) 128 to 132 Marina

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