IN the 1950s and 60s there were a number of significant fires in central Romsey. 

In February 1963 there was a blaze at Dukes Mill which threatened to spread to adjacent properties and firemen had to use breathing apparatus owing to the dense smoke. 

Four appliances attended and were able to bring the fire under control. Councillor Duke praised both the fireman and his own staff who he felt all did a ‘magnificent job’.

In December 1963 a fire at Smith Bradbeers did £50,000 worth of damage. The fire started during morning shopping hours and customers and staff had to be evacuated. When the two machines from Romsey arrived they found the front part of the store well ablaze and further appliances were called for. Two young ladies had to be persuaded to leave their flat above the rear of the premises where they were trying to save their belongings. The fire threatened to spread to the adjoining shop, Bell’s Furnishings, and the many onlookers formed a human chain passing all the stock out of the shop and transferring it to the Angel Hotel Yard. A rapid effort to bring down the unsafe building and clear Bell Street allowed the street to be reopened in only 33 hours.

Hampshire Chronicle: Fireman Pragnell at Strongs Brewery fire 1954

In July 1964 the premises in the Hundred which had been Hampshire Preserving Company, locally known as ‘the Jam factory’, was severely damaged by fire. Jam making was started there by George Harris and then continued by Mr G Hattatt. The premises were an interesting 16th century building but had been empty for a few years and sadly it was demolished. It is now the site of the Aldi Supermarket and Naomi House charity shop.

These fires were recorded in the Romsey Advertiser. However, one fire which received no public attention but was both large and dramatic, occurred at Messrs Strong and Co Ltd, Romsey on the 1st May 1954. Fire swept through the roof and top floor of the five floored building. During the fire Fireman Leonard Pragnell who was at the top of a ladder was hit by at slate that fell off the roof and knocked him off the ladder. This was potentially a very serious incident but as Fireman Pragnell fell Fireman Hancock managed to catch him by his belt. He held him by his belt upside down until Fireman Longman who saw what was happening hurried up the ladder. Fireman Longman was then able to carry Fireman Pragnell down the ladder. Fireman Pragnell was able to walk to a car and was taken to Romsey Hospital for treatment.