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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials

       Continued from the previous page:

The workmen were awakened about one o,clock this morning by the screams of the servants from the windows of the mansion, and seeing that the house was ablaze, the men hastened to the main entrance, where they found two of the maids clad only in their night attire.


It was then reported that the housekeeper and another maid were somewhere in the burning building. Would-be rescuers dashed upstairs and on the landing, found Miss Davie lying there in a state of collapse. They carried her downstairs and out of the bulding but she was in such a state of collapse from shock and suffocation that she shortly afterwards expired.


The men returned to the burning mansion and ascended the stairs in an endeavour to locate Miss Vincent, but the smoke had by this time become so dense that they were unable to reach her bedroom.


Mr. Jack McCarthy Joyce Davie
          Mr Jack McCarthy

Joyce Davie who died



Meanwhile, telephone calls had been made to South Molton for all possible help, and these fire brigades responded - South Molton, Barnstaple Rural, Bideford and Tiverton.  South Molton being the nearest, and who received the call at 1.20am, were under Captain Hawke, the first brigade on the scene.


Meanwhile the workmen had put into operation some of the fire fighting appliances, with which the mansion was equipped, the hydrants being used.


Captain Hawke told an Express & Echo representative that on his arrival the fire was going ahead pell mell. He set part of his Brigade to work on the fire while he himself, at the head of one party and the police, under Sergeant Annett of South Molton at the head of another party, endeavoured to get into the building.


Captain Hawke added that they came across one of the painters bringing out one of the servants from upstairs. They assisted the continuance of the search, but could find no one else.  Flames were pouring out of the windows on the ground floor, and from the bedrooms on the western portion of the main building.



Mr. H. Elliott, one of Messrs Keeble's employees, who himself assisted in the rescue work, paid tribute to the heroism of Jack McCarthy, one of his fellow workmen.

Mr Elliott said "if ever a man was a hero that man was McCarthy". After having brought out one of the maids, he made a further attempt to locate Miss Vincent but was driven back by the flames and dense volumes of smoke, and he himself collapsed and had to receive medical treatment from Dr. P. H. Seal of South Molton, who, with members of the St. John Ambulance from South Motlon, made every effort to revive Miss Davie, but without avail.



Another who assisted in the rescue efforts was Mr. Bert Blackford of South Molton who was returning home very late from his work in Barnstaple by car and who noticed the fire from the main road. He was on the scene before the fire brigade arrived and went up the stairs with Mr. McCarthy and Mr Elliott, and also subsequently endeavoured to effect an entrance from outside a window.


Mr. Blackford was positive he heard cries coming from the building, evidently those of the housekeeper. The fire also appears to have been seen by another passing motorist, believed to be a clergyman, who turned his car into the drive and had reached the main entrance just as the painters had been aroused by the screams of the servants. 


The two maids who escaped were Miss Polly Barrow, a daughter of a former coachman to the Fortescues and Miss Annie Miller, a housemaid who only joined the staff last week and was a stranger,


Miss Vincent
Miss Vincent, whose body has not yet been found


Mr. Smyth-Richards, the Estate's Agent, said the principle silver was saved, and a good deal of the more valuable china, but the library and its contents had gone. More than that he was uinable to say at that time as the fire was still burning furiously. It was impossible to get at anything in the upstairs rooms and the whole of the bedrooms, with their contents, including valuable carpets, were destroyed.


It was an awe-inspiring spectacle as the flames were ravaging the mansion, lighting up the sky with a lurid glare which could be seen for many miles around, It was visible from the higher parts of Barnstaple, eight miles distant.




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