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West View of the Royal Carton Printing Office,
TO H.FISHER HIS
Drown & Engraved dy I. Duen.
Previous to its Destruotion by Fire, Ianı 29 & 30. 1821.
245 Destruction of the Caxton Printing-office. 246 though somewhat inclined to the west;cles, which had been deposited in a and, happily, it did not blow with any store room on the bottom floor, the men considerable degree of violence. Issu- rescued at the risk of their lives. In ing from any other quarter, the flames this room they continued while the must have been driven immediately on floors and roof above them successively some contiguous houses; in which case gave way, and until the melted type their destruction would have been in- descending through the crevices of the evitable. But although it was suffi- chambers, dropped, like rain, upon ciently strong to carry the flame through their clothes, and the paper they were the broken wall on the eastern side of preserving. Being thus compelled to the building, as no houses were on the retreat, the remaining mass of this vast opposite side of the street in that direc- property, amounting to an enormons tion, their energies were spent without sum, of which, at present, no accurate communicating with any other combus- estimate can be formed, was involved tible matter.
in the common destruction. The acThe light which the flames emitted count books, which were in a detached was so strong, as to resemble day; and building, have been preserved. The even to render the most diminutive ob- vestiges of this vast property still lie jects visible. The room in which a buried in the heaps of rubbish that man, living in Tranmere, slept, was involve the remains of Caxton Buildso illuminated, that he got up to dis-ings, which was one of the largest cover its source; and from its brilliancy publishing establishments in this kinghe was enabled distinctly to discern
by dom, and perhaps in the world. his watch the hour of the night. The The property rescued from the flames, place in which he lived, is in Cheshire, and taken from the contiguous buildon the opposite side of the harbour, ings which were thought to be in immiabout two miles distant from the con- nent danger, was partly carried into the flagration.
houses of the neighbouring inhabitants, The heat also was too intense to be who readily opened their doors on this borne, except at a considerable dis-disastrous occasion, and partly piled in tance. Many panes of glass in houses the streets, protected by a guard of adjacent were broken with its excessive soldiers until a place of safety could be violence; and from the upper parts of found, to secure it from the depredathe flaming ruins, the molten lead tions of any who might have mingled streamed around, and lodged in shin- with the vast crowds of people asseming spangles on the clothes of several bled to witness the catastrophe. who approached near the fire to rescue The fire continued burning during from its destructive power such articles the whole day, and on the ensuing as could be secured.
night occasionally blazed with renewed The flames continued to rage with violence. Both by night and by day undiminished violence from the moment the soldiers were continued, to guard they gained the ascendancy, until nearly the ruins, and to prevent the thoughtfive o'clock, when, having exhausted less from approaching too near to the the combustible matter which lay within hanging walls, until Thursday the 8th their reach, they gradually declined, of February. The fire, though appaand occasionally became mixed with rently nearly smothered, still continues smoke that arose from a bed of fire to burn; and on the attempts that have distributed over the bottom of the build- been made to remove the rubbish, the ing, surrounded by cracked and broken heat has been too intolerable to be fragments of walls, that only gave borne; and fire still begins to glow in variety to the forms of desolation.
many places as as the air is From this vast pile of buildings, filled admitted. with type, printing-presses, numbers, The occasion of this calamity, we books bound and in boards, together have no means of tracing in a decisive with stereotype, engravers' tools, cop- manner. The various rooms having perplate-presses, paper, and stores of been warmed with steam from a boiler various kinds connected with the ex- without the building, no fire was tensive trade carried on by Mr. Henry known to exist in the parts where it Fisher, the proprietor ; the only articles began. The men quitted their work of consequence that have been preserved about seven in the evening, and left are, the copper-plates, and about a every thing secure; and about eight, a thousand reams of paper. These arti- man appointed for the purpose, went 247 Destruction of the Caxton Printing-office. 248 through the premises to see that every the whole will be insufficient to cover thing was safe; the whole of which he the aggregate loss. In addition to found and left secure.
this, the extensive trade which was The day preceding that on which carried on by the proprietor, has bethe accident happened, being the anni come so deranged, in consequence of versary of His Majesty's accession to this disaster, that some time must the throne, numerous sky-rockets were elapse before the stock can be replaced, thrown into the air on the occasion, to cause things to flow in their wonted many of which were near the building, chansel, and furnish the regular supon the roof of which several globules plies. Of this complicated calamity the of fire, when the rockets burst, were disastrous effects will be felt by him seen to descend. The most probable for years to come. conjecture therefore that can be formed In the meanwhile, nearly a hundred is, that a flying globule must have persons in Liverpool are thrown out of made its way through some window, employment which they had calculated and have thus lighted up this awful on as permanent. Most of those emtorch. The rockets were seen flying ployed in the Caxton Printing Office, at various times, from about half past have been there from their youth, and nine until eleven, not more than two some ten, fifteen, and twenty years. hours before the flames attracted pub- The long period in which they have lic attention.
been thus employed is a strong eviOne gentleman, indeed, has declared, dence in favour of their sobriety and that he perceived a dubious light in good conduct; and perhaps, taking that end of the building where the fire them together, a more orderly, steady, originated, long before any alarm was industrious, and worthy set of men, could given; and that its undulatory appear- not be found in any printing-office ance so far excited his attention, that throughout the united kingdom. This he watched its doubtful aspect some testimony in favour of their general time before he retired to bed, which character, their uniform conduct dewas about half past eleven o'clock. mands from Mr. Fisher the proprietor
, After this, one of the family got out of who has been twenty-two years in the bed, and again observed it through his establishment. window, when he called some others of It is a tribute of respectful acknowthe family, who continued to notice it ledgment, which is due from the pronearly half an hour, its red appearance prietor to several gentlemen belonging at this time bearing some resemblance to the trade in Liverpool, to say, that to the mouth of an oven, shining only on hearing of the disaster, they kindly through one window of the building offered their assistance, in furnishing But the gentleman to whom we allude, what types and presses they could conhaving no anticipation of the melan- veniently spare, to assist in completing choly event which followed, and such works as demanded immediate atno interest in the consequences, de- tention. Others also, who had vacant clined making any exertion ; espe- premises, have, from true sympathetic cially as on a former occasion he had feelings, voluntary offered them on the nearly lost his life while attempting to present occasion. To all these he finds extinguish the flames which were con- himself bound in gratitude to return his suming the premises of another. At public thanks, and thus to connect with this eventful crisis, if timely informa- the disaster in this memorial, a testimony tion had been given, the premises might of their kindness, and an acknowledghave been saved, since many would have ment of his own obligations. risked their lives in attempting to During the day on which the fire preserve the building, and the vast took place, several fragments of the property which it contained. It is tottering walls continued to fall, with. however, but just to observe, that since out the application of any external the occurrence of the awful event, he force; but many portions still remained has expressed his sincere regret, that standing, together with the lofty chimhe had not instantly made known those ney, which, stripped of the adjoining ominous presages, which led to the buildings, exhibited a monument of melancholy catastrophe.
desolation. This chimney, from its Providentially, both the premises and base to its summit, was about eighty the property were insured to a conside- feet, which, together with the corrable amount in various oflices ; but respondent walls, rendered it exceed:
Destruction of the Carton Printing-office.
ingly dangerous for any person either the earliest alarm, and with a degree to pass through those parts of the streets of speed and foresight which were near which they stood, to tread on the scarcely their own, sheltered themruins, or to remain in the houses that selves in places of safety until the awful were within the range of their fall. crisis was past. One man on this Attempts were therefore made to bring occasion suffered a slight contusion in them to the ground. To accomplish his leg, but all besides escaped unhurt. the demolition of the chimney, a rope On the morning of the fire, another was wrapped round it, at the extremi- man dislocated his ancle, and several ties of which many men exerted all received cuts, wounds, and bruises, but their strength. Nearly twelve hours it no personal accidents oocured of greater resisted all their efforts, although it moment than those which have been rocked from side to side like the mast mentioned. This wall in its descent of a ship when put in motion by the crushed to the ground an adjoining waves. The rope broke several times. building, that was .contiguous to its It, however, at length gave way near base; and its more elevated parts the middle, and, in awful majesty, de- totally demolished a cottage which scended on the funeral pile of Caxton. stood at a greater distance. The
Some of the remaining walls, which chimney of another cottage had also were deemed sufficiently strong to jus- been struck down, and its roof broken tify the attempt, were scaled, and the in, on a preceding part of the day. bricks thrown down one after another; Since the preceding paragraphs were but others, that were more hazardous, written, it has been ascertained that, inwere either encompassed by ropes, or dependently of the building, the stock perforated to admit them, and by mus- amounted to £42,000, out of which, in cular exertion mingled with the com- copperplates, paper, &c. about £5000 mon heap.
have been preserved. Of this loss, the On surveying this calamity it is public will be able to form some conpleasing to reflect, that, notwithstand- ception, on perusing the following list ing the imminent danger to which of articles, known, among others, to many were exposed, no life was lost. have perished in the flames.—Thirteen For a short period during the fire, a printing-presses ; ten copperplate presses, report prevailed, that one man had and steam apparatus for heating the been seen to enter the building, who plates ; four hundred original drawings ; had not returned, and painful appre- about five hundred reams of paper ; hensions were entertained for his safety. ten thousand six hundred pages of steHappily, however, the report proved reotype plates ; sixteen thousand pounds without foundation; and after a little weight of types; two patent hydraulic while the sensation subsided.
presses; and three millions and a half But although no life was lost, ten of folio, quarto, and octavo numbers. men, on the day which followed that of The remains of the printing-presses, the fire, bad the most narrow escape being of cast-iron, have lately been from death, that it is possible to con- taken from the ruins : but all are renceive. A huge portion of the wall stand- dered useless; the finer parts being ing contiguous to the yard, near the either bent or broken, and the whole counting-house, which, no doubt, had so corroded with the action of the been shaken by the falling chimney, fire, as to appear only as heavy and unand was severely pressed by the vast profitable lumber. Few things have accumulation of rubbish within, was been rescued from the rubbish, that thought to portend danger, on which can either be used, or that are worth account it was deemed expedient to repairing. take it down. But as the large boiler, But notwithstanding the vast confrom which the building had been sup- sumption of books, &c. in the flames, aplied with steam, stoad very near its stated above, we can inform our numebase, and which the falling materials rous subscribers to the various periodwould inevitably have crushed, an ef- ical works publishing at the Caxton fort was made to preserve it. In doing press, that about one million five hunthis, the men were busily at work, re- dred thousand numbers still remain in moving some loose rubbish, when on a London, and with the different agents sudden the wall above them gave way, in the various parts of the United and in an instant came thundering to the Kingdom, from which a continuation of ground. The men in a moment took | their regular supplies may be expected, No. 25.-VOL. III.