Laindon's Largest Fire

Laindon Timber Fire - Sunday 17th April, 1932

By William Diment

Photo:Churchill Johnson's from entrance to Station

Churchill Johnson's from entrance to Station

Essex Police Museum

Damage estimated at ten thousand pounds was caused by a fire at premises belonging to Churchill Johnson, Ltd. timber and builders' merchants, Laindon, on Sunday night. An extensive timber wharf and stores, containing thousands of tins of paint and other builders'
materials, were involved.

The premises, which were a mass of flames when the Great Burstead Fire Brigade arrived, were entirely destroyed.  The Brigade, under Capt. J. W. Wheatley, promptly  responded to the call.  

There being no hydrant in Laindon, the nearest water supply was a  wash-out on the 3-inch main in Durham Road, and a 1,000 feet hose was run out, but the pressure  with such a small main was hopelessly insufficient, and the Brigade were severely  handicapped.  Later a supply was found in the ruins of the old mill on the south side of  Laindon station, and the progress of the fire was stopped.  Two horses were stabled in the yard, and were released by Mr. Cochrane, and some lorries were saved. 

The Brigade remained at work all night.

Photo:Churchill Johnson's from High Road (as I remember it)

Churchill Johnson's from High Road (as I remember it)

Photo:Section of the 1938 Ornance Survey Map showing the location of Churchill Johnson

Section of the 1938 Ornance Survey Map showing the location of Churchill Johnson

Ornance Survey

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Laindon's Largest Fire' page

This page was added by Ian Mott on 09/08/2012.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

What is now on the site of what was Churchill Johnson? 

Editor: There is now a car park for commuters

By Helen
On 22/10/2012

What is the name of the road on the left (on top photo). Many thanks

Editor: Hi Helen, this is Laindon High Road.  I've added a section of map that will hopefuly help make it easier to work out where the photograph was taken.  The picture shows the parade of shops on the corner of Laindon High Road and Windsor Road.

By Helen
On 30/09/2012

Many thanks. That would be great to see a map layout as its quite difficult to imagine how it was compared to the road layout today.

By Helen
On 25/09/2012

Could somebody possibly tell me where the above photo was taken in relation to Laindon Station today please? I can't work out where it is although I know it would have changed dramatically since the photo was taken. Many thanks

Editor: The first photograph was taken at the top of station approach with back to the adjacent road bridge over the railway. The second is standing in the High Road where there was an original right and left bend to the bridge. I will add a section of map to show the original layout.

By Helen
On 25/09/2012

Mr Diment, I will make contact and let you know. Andrea

By Andrea
On 21/08/2012

Editor. Thanks for the news about the article. I will look forward to reading it. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 17/08/2012

Hallo Andrea, It seems certain that Marjorie who would have been in her very early teens would have some vivid memories of the fire.  

It is possible that I may have known Marjorie as her name stirs a memory but I am unable to make a connection. Was she a fair haired girl and possibly a member of one of the dramatic or other social groups which flourished during that era.?

By W.H.Diment
On 17/08/2012

Hi Andrea. Marjorie Wright and her daughter were at one of the Memory Mornings at Laindon Library a couple of months back while I was there. Marjorie dictated her memories to Patsy Mott who I believe is planning to put together an article about Churchill Johnson. That should be good. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 17/08/2012

Thank you Mr Diment. I am hoping the daughter of MARJORIE WRIGHT (nee Barnett) will be in touch soon with her Mother's story. 

Miss Barnett left school in 1933 aged 14 and worked in Churchill Johnson – as an office girl until 1946. She certainly would have some more information on this subject. Fingers crossed that her daughter will be in touch with me soon.

By Andrea
On 16/08/2012

Hallo Andrea, As I remember it, the timber yard was to the south of the shop and accessed from Northumberland Avenue. 

The timber was stored on racks, unlike the photo where it is stood up. There also used to be quite a considerable amount of asbestos sheeting, both flat and corrugated. I can't quite remember where the paint was stored, possibly undercover. 

There was at the time a report of roofing tiles exploding in the heat a flying around like shrapnel, but I believe this may have been asbestos tiles as I do not remember many houses being built with the concrete tiles more common today. 

However, most of my memory is from the Station Approach view and not the access road and may not have given a full view of the layout.

By W.H.Diment
On 15/08/2012

I have childhood memories of Churchill Johnson where the timber was stocked on the righthand side of the building. It must have been a running board to walk on to view the wood as there was no floor where the planks must have come from the basement. Or am I dreaming?

By Andrea
On 10/08/2012