Preston fire chief avoids assault conviction

Historian Keith Johnson looks back at the case of an assualt that never was...

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13th July 2017, 10:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th July 2017, 8:32 am
The Kardomah Cafe
The Kardomah Cafe

On the last Tuesday of August 1901, William Henry Clarke, joiner, was in Fishergate and noticed smoke coming from the Kardomah Cafe.

Clarke, who had spent 18 years as a member of Preston Fire Brigade, having left 18 months earlier, immediately went over to the cafe and

informed the manager.

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On the invitation of the manager he and PC Charnley went up to the top room where the fire was and applied several buckets of water to quell the blaze. The fire had been started when some rubbish was being burnt in a grate and a spark had ignited a pile of cardboard boxes and paper close by.

Within minutes the Preston Fire Brigade, led by fire chief Mr Savage, arrived and a couple of firemen went up to the top floor and saw that the fire had been put out. According to Clarke, as he descended the stairs he was greeted by Mr Savage who caught hold of him by the shoulder and said, “What do you want here? I am the boss here. Out you go.” Clarke responding that he had put the fire out, and did not wish to be treated in such a brash manner.

The altercation between the pair resulted in Supt Alonso Savage being summoned to the Preston police court by Clarke accused of assault. After giving his version of events, Clarke was cross examined and claimed that Savage had always had a spite against him and admitted that, since leaving the fire brigade, he had been ordered away from three or four fires by the brigade.

Richard Hudson, manager of the Kardomah Cafe, stated that the damage done was very slight and that he had given Clarke permission to go upstairs and assist, a fact that he related to Mr Savage later. P.C. Charnley told the court that he and Clarke had worked

together to put out the blaze and that he did not see any assault take place.

When Supt Savage was called he stated that he had been a member of the fire brigade for 45 years, and had been in charge for 18 years.

The defendant was once a member of the brigade. He never had any bother with him. On the afternoon of the fire he received an alarm at the Tithebarn Street fire station shortly before 5 o’clock and within minutes the brigade were at the Kardomah Cafe.

He sent three men upstairs with the fire hose and when they got there they could see the fire had been quelled in the smoke filled room. As he followed them upstairs he met Clarke on the landing and asked him to leave. A couple of other firemen corroborated Mr Savage’s version of events and claimed they had not seen any assault take place.

The magistrates retired for a considerable time and when they returned the chairman announced that they were of the opinion that a technical offence had been committed, which under the excitement of the moment had been exaggerated. Supt Savage was then told that he must pay the costs of the hearing.

At the time of the blaze the Kardomah Cafe was at 111 Fishergate. premises they occupied until the mid 1930s when they moved a few doors along Fishergate to the site of the former Fishergate Post Office previously occupied by William Harding’s, the carriage and motor body builders.

For over 40 years the friendly face of John Victor Christian greeted customers and the cafe manager retired, aged 71, in 1966. the year of its closure.

Alonso Savage remained as fire chief until 1909, when his son, also named Alonso Savage. replaced him. He in turn was Superintendent until he retired in 1931, a year before his death.