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Home » Memories » 1946-1960 » Paul Metcalf – Rawdon National School Fire – 1951

Paul Metcalf – Rawdon National School Fire – 1951

Paul Metcalf Fire at Rawdon National School 1951

Title Paul Metcalf – Rawdon National School Fire.
Date Undated
Location Rawdon
Photo ID W149
Comment See below…

Rawdon National School Fire 1951.

I started scool at the age of five in 1949, I was very familiar with the school then because my grandparents Albert and Annie Wilkinson were the school caretakers and lived in the house which is still the caretakers house.

The area which is the car park was a farm owned by a Mr Wood he had shire horses to pull carts like all farms in those days (before tractors were in general use). At playtime I used to sneak round to my gran’s for some of her baking but Miss Jackson our teacher would come looking for me and I would get told off.

We lived 100 yards up the road at Wentworth Terrace. Late in the night of 23rd January 1951 there was a knock on the door, my mothers sister my auntie who still lived with my grandparents told us the school was on fire. The fire Brigade had arrived but the hydrants in the road had not been maintained so they had no water. They tried to get the pumping engine to the Lido dam behind the school, but the sides were too steep and that idea failed.

I was at home, my mother and father were down at the school seeing if they could help, they constantly came back to check on me as I was only seven years old and telling me what was happening.

The fire had started in the boiler house which was at the opposite end of the school to my grandparents house, which at that time was joined to the school. The fire was moving through the school towards the house. I was obviously looking out of my bedroom window which looked out on to Town Street trying to see if I could see the glow of the fire. The street was quite dark, lit only by gas street lighting, I then saw firemen workinbg their way up the street coupling fire hose pipes together, they knew only one other source of water which was Larkfield Dam. Where they obtained all the hoses I cannot imagine as it must be at least half a mile, but I think other Brigades were involved.

Meanwhile at the school it seemed certain that my grandparents house would get taken by the fire, so all the local people to the school went into the house and completely emptied it of furniture and personal things actually everything that was not a fixture and took it to their own houses for safekeeping.

At last the water came through and the firemen could start putting out the fire. By early morning when I was allowed to go down to the school the fire was out and the house was saved. It had got so close the paint on the back door had scorched and blistered. I went into the kitchen it was full of firemen drinking tea and eating sandwiches which my gran could not make fast enough. They must have been starving working so hard all night.

The next job for my Mum and Aunty Marjorie was to wash the inside of the house it was wet and dirty with people coming in and out for the furniture and get rid of the strong smell of smoke. But by that evening the house was clean all the furniture was back in place nothing missing or broken, what fantastic neighbours.


The fire was blamed on a faulty coke boiler but within a year Cartwright chemical firm at Larkfield Rawdon had a big fire, could it be we had a arsonist in Aireborough?

Paul Metcalf.

To view Rawdon National School, now St. Peter’s (C of E) Primary School, please – Click Here

Consolidated by J Brayshaw. 09 December 2023
Last Updated: 09 December 2023.

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