A disastrous fire gutted a cabinet makers’ and builders’ works on Monday 4 Jan 1909, causing £7,000 of damages, with the fire burning for a number of hours before being extinguished and final damping down taking several days.
The fire broke out at the premises occupied by Messrs Holdoway and Tapner, upholsterers, and Messrs Simmonds and Co, cabinet makers, builders and contractors, in Waterworks Road. The whole of the local fire brigade turned out, except for one section held in reserve in St Leonards. A huge crowd watched in Queen's Road and the tram traffic was entirely suspended there. The premises involved had a narrow frontage onto Waterworks Road, but extended to a considerable depth and were surrounded by shops on the Queen's Road side, at the rear by Messrs Charles Crew and Co builders merchants shops, and on the gas works side by the same firm’s yard, stores and works.
The front building was of six storeys and was originally used as a flour mill. The rear of the smaller building attached to the front structure was used by Messrs Simmonds as a carpenters’ and plumbers’ shop store and office and paint shop, and the remainder as a timber stores. The building had a massive concrete floor, part of which collapsed, and tons of timber were lost.
The blaze was said to be the biggest since the Jenkins Fire 17 years before, though some said the Mastins Fire of a few years back was bigger.