19th January 1891
Fire almost destroys Fort Regent
As one of the highest spots overlooking St Helier, the site of Fort Regent has always been important to Jersey’s defence. So, a fire like the one that broke out in January 1891 was a worry for both the garrison and locals alike.
The fire started just before 5pm when an officer of the 1st South Lancashire Regiment knocked over an oil-filled lamp. It spilled on the wooden floor just outside the officers’ mess, the paraffin ignited, and it carried the flame with it, quickly setting the whole room alight.
Fire takes hold
The alarm was sounded immediately, but already the blaze was too large to tackle with any degree of success – particularly as the fire fighters had only buckets with which to transport water. The contents of the room were inevitably destroyed. Among the furniture and pictures lost to the flames were the regimental colours, embroidered with the names of 20 battles in which the Regiment, also known as the Prince of Wales’s Volunteers, had fought. This was reckoned to be the most decorated colours in the British army, so a great many papers across the mainland picked up the story. By February, it was being used as the hook on which the papers hung retrospectives, looking back at other fires in castles, forts, and military posts.
Things could have been worse, though. The anteroom led on to the officer’s mess in one direction, and the powder room in the other. Had the fire reached the powder room, the destruction would have been far worse, and likely to rival that of the destruction wreaked on Guernsey’s Castle Cornet when the magazine was destroyed by a freak lightning strike.
Nine years later, St Helier’s Town Militia Arsenal was destroyed by fire.
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