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George’s Hotel and Pike’s place in it

July 9, 2011

The Surrey fire boat – Trial by fire 3 .


(Reports of the Daily News Advertiser)

1.   June 14, 1892 – The shrill screams of the ferry whistle

"At 2:30 o’clock yesterday morning the inhabitants of Columbia Street and the lower part of the City were awakened by the repeated shrill screams of the ferry whistle and the violent ringing of the Great Northern locomotive bell at South Westminster,  when it was seen that a conflagration was well advanced. 
The members of the Fire Department turned out and the ferry put off from the City wharf with little delay, quite a number of citizens getting up and making the trip to the other side.
It was found that the South Westminster hotel was the scene of the fire, and the hose was run out and the ferry engine requisitioned to extinguish the flames, which were soon controlled, not, however, until the whole of the hotel and stock and the stable adjoining had been destroyed.
The cause of the fire is unknown, and as Mr John George, the proprietor of the premises is away, the amount of loss cannot be ascertained, but the insurance will probably cover this."

The fire had started in the large stable at the rear of the George’s Hotel spread to the Hotel and thence to the adjoining general store of Beaton & Pike. 

"The stable was completely consumed, and nothing but a few charred timbers and the front of the Hotel remains." 


John George woodyard John and Katie George had opened their Hotel the previous year, after moving from Clayton where they had operated the store and Post Office.
John George Hotel & Stables  


John Beaton and William Pike, who had opened a store at Brownsville,  had previously gone into receivership, and Beaton was forced to give up the Post Office , which was taken over by James Punch in November 1891.  

About a quarter of the store was destroyed.   The store was later sold at auction in September 1892 to James Punch.

2.  The Inquest

"A fire inquiry has been going on since Monday, before Coroner Pittendrigh and a jury of five, at South Westminster, at the instance of one of the insurance companies . . . It is quite clear that no blame can be attached to Mrs [Katie] George in connection with the destruction of the hotel and stables."

"It appears that a short time ago an assignment was made of the stock in trade and the insurance policy of Beaton & Pike to Mr Jas. Punch and Mr M Hayes for the benefit of creditors." 

Michael Hayes also had a store at South Westminster.

"Mr Pike was engaged as watch man, and the fire occurred in his absence."

James Ryan, an engine tender on the Great Northern Railway testified that on the night in question he was talking to Pike for about 25 minutes at his engine about a quarter of a mile from the fire.

"He was at the station all night and every night. Mr Pike came along that night a few minutes before the fire broke out. Mr Pike was in the habit of coming along about midnight or 1 a.m. several nights in the week."

After spotting the fire in the stables, Ryan went to get clothes from his hotel room and  after returning to his engine he rang the bell—  "The steamer Surrey’s whistle blew before this.’

Engineer Myron Cooper, of GN engine No 199 testified he was sleeping at the time of the fire in his room at the hotel.

"He saw a horse standing on the road in  front of Barry’s house. The stable door was open. Between the kitchen and the barn there was about 20 feet.”

Michael R Barry was bartender and manager of nearby Punch’s Hotel.

"The Coroner in summing up said it was a strange circumstance that all the horses should have been removed on this particular night. In excuse of this it was advanced that they were removed because an execution was expected. Then it was a flagrant neglect of duty for Pike, who was in charge of the premises, to leave his trust at night and go so far away."

After short consideration, "the Jury found that they did not consider any evidence was brought forward to show that the fire was the work of an incendiary."  As a result, this meant that the insurance company had to pay the claim.

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