Conflagration and Consequence

Although the larger part of Rutland County Museum is contained within the former Riding School of the Rutland Fencibles, a portion is housed within the former Poultry Hall of the Rutland Agricultural Society. In the Spring of 1942 a devastating fire broke out in the Poultry Hall, evidence of which can still be seen today.

The fire broke out on the 5th April 1942, early on a Sunday morning. A newspaper report states that the fire broke out in the part of the Poultry Hall occupied by Messrs J Saxby a carrier and haulage company known locally as Saxby’s Garage. The fire destroyed five lorries and several cars plus some motorcycles. Before the conflagration could be extinguished it spread to the part of the building occupied by Rutland Agricultural Society damaging “grandstands and turntables” [turnstiles]. Also damaged in the fire was a horse drawn road sweeper belonging to Oakham Urban District Council. However, other council vehicles were saved. At one time there was a danger of the fire spreading to neighbouring buildings including the fire station (although this may refer to a part of the Museum being used to house fire vehicles rather than the actual fire station). Horses and other equipment had to be moved and Catmose Cottage was evacuated. The cause of the fire was not established, but may have been caused by an electrical fault.

It is probable that Saxby’s Garage was set up in the Poultry Hall from the end of 1939. In October of that year the Rutland Agricultural Society advertised its willingness to rent out the hall, on an annual basis, and called for tenders. Adverts for lorry drivers in the newspapers throughout the war years record that the “work is of national importance” and that they were a “protected establishment”, free from the demands of conscription. The company continued to run from South Street until the mid 1960’s.

After the fire a loading platform was built in the Poultry Hall, which was removed when it was converted into the display area / workshop of the Museum in the early 1970s. These photographs were donated to the Rutland County Museum in the late 1990s.

A Williams-Hall Production