Monday, January 25, 2010

Benge & Pratt Store Fire, 28 March 1914. Upper Hutt

Evening Post Headline, 30 March 1914, p. 7

It was an ordinary Saturday's business from all accounts at Benge & Pratt's grocery and drapery store in Upper Hutt, Wellington on 28 March, 1914.

At 9:30 pm that evening, the two partners Herbert Benge and Herbert Pratt closed up the premises, shutting off the acetylene gas that provided lighting on the ground floor of the two storey building. Around 10 pm, Benge returned to the store after he thought he saw a light in the upper floor. Finding nothing amiss he again left the premises.

About 11:40 pm, Mrs Crabtree, wife of the proprietor of the Provincial Hotel across an alley way adjacent to Benge & Pratt's store saw smoke percolating from the store's roof and raised the alarm.

Constable Denis Mahoney, Upper Hutt's police officer, was promptly on the scene and summoned Messrs Pratt & Benge back to the store.

The Benge & Pratt building in a circa 1906 photo is on the left of the picture, across an alley from J A Hazelwood's store. Benge & Pratt's store as it was to become by 1914 was divided into two sections, the grocery and drapery. The fire was subsequently determined to have likely started in upper storey at the far left of the picture. Alexander Turnbull Library.

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