Major blaze that people have never forgotten
COMMUNITY spirit has been coursing through the veins of the area for longer than most can remember but it has never been more evident than it was 100 years ago. Shopkeepers, residents, police and firemen all came together to support Kilburn following a gi
COMMUNITY spirit has been coursing through the veins of the area for longer than most can remember but it has never been more evident than it was 100 years ago.
Shopkeepers, residents, police and firemen all came together to support Kilburn following a giant blaze on January 13, 1910.
The Times has once again teamed up with the wonderful people at Brent Archives to bring you the story behind the Great Kilburn Fire.
Malcolm Barres-Baker, Brent Archives, said: "In 1897 Benjamin Beardmore Evans, originally from Wales but by then a Willesden councillor, opened a draper's shop on Kilburn High Road.
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"In 1905 BB Evans was extended to include Nos. 142-160 High Road, making it 'the largest millinery showrooms in north-west London.' It even had tea rooms, where musicians entertained the diners."
Just after 5.30pm on Thursday, January 13, Mr Ralph, manager of the neighbouring West London Dairy reported a fire at BB Evans.
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Mr Barres-Baker said: "The fire was visible for miles around and a large crowd quickly formed to watch.
"More fire engines came from other districts and the London Fire Brigade took charge. Police had to be brought in to protect the crowds and stop them obstructing the firemen, who fought the fire from Priory Park Road and Kingsgate Mews.
"Despite the wind driving the fire north-eastwards, the firemen largely managed to prevent it spreading beyond BB Evans.
"At times they were beaten back by the heat, or by falling plate glass from BB Evans' large modern windows. Some of the buildings across the High Road were scorched by the heat."
Fortunately, it was early closing day and the shop was shut but 15 assistants and servants were still inside when the fire started.
All managed to escape without injury but one young woman bravely went back in to rescue a dog and was given a guinea by one of the crowd for her 'plucky behaviour.'
Mr Barres-Baker said: "The shop assistants, many of them young women, had lost all their belongings, as well as their lodgings.
"Other shops on the High Road offered them beds for the night, and a Kilburn Fire Relief Fund was soon set up to help them buy new clothes. By February 11, 54 out of 62 claims by assistants had been settled by the Kilburn Fire Relief Committee."
The cause of the fire was never discovered but �60,000 worth of damage was caused, which is equal to around �4.5 million in today's money.
The business was temporarily transferred to Lloyd & Co., a draper's at 286-290 High Road which Evans also owned.
The BB Evans site was closed for about a year, but it rose from the ashes better than before, becoming a full department store offering 'everything for wear - and the home.'
BB Evans closed in 1971.