23rd January 1900

Town militia arsenal is destroyed by fire

The Town Militia arsenal was destroyed by fire just eight years after a turned-over paraffin lamp had come within a few feet of igniting the powder room in Fort Regent.

At the time, each parish had its own arsenal, allowing Militiamen to relocate from the parish churches where they had been originally based. Built in 1835 and insured for £1200, according to the Guernsey Star, the arsenal at St Helier was 135 feet long and 25 feet wide, and packed with ball and blank ammunition. These were ignited by the fire, resulting in an impressive display “resembling a feu de joie”.

Uniforms and weapons destroyed

The fire spread quickly, consuming more than 800 uniforms and 1000 rifles (some sources say it was only 100 rifles) belonging to the Royal Jersey Light Infantry, but the supply of water was so meagre that there was little chance of stopping it from spreading throughout the building.

By the time it had burned itself out, just 90 minutes after it started, only the walls were left standing. In the words of The Times the following day, “four engines were soon on the scene, and the 3rd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment (Militia) rendered valuable assistance, but unfortunately there was a scarcity of water.” Similar criticism had been levelled at the efforts to quell the fire at Fort Regent, but it seems the lesson of that incident had not been learned.


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