The Abberley Hall Fire

(Aris Birmingham Gazette, December 29, 1845)

We regret to state that the fine mansion known by the name of Abberley Hall, near Stourport, was destroyed by fire on the Afternoon of Thursday last. The mansion was occupied by Mrs. Moilliet, relict of John Lewis Moilliet, Esq., formerly of Hamstead Hall, near this town. Mr. Moilliet, who purchased the property about three years ago, and expended several thousand pounds in converting the old house into a beautiful villa in the Italian style, did not live long to enjoy the retreat which he had thus furnished for himself and family, his death having taken place about twelve months ago. The fire was first discovered by some of the servants, and they endeavoured to extinguish it by own unassisted efforts, but finding that it had extended to the roof, they sent to Witley Court for the engine stationed there, which, with many of the servants, was speedily on the spot, and in about an hour afterwards another very powerful engine arrived from Stourport. By this time vast numbers were attracted to the scene of' the disaster, for the town standing upon an eminence and commanding a view of the vast extent of country, the fire was seen at a great distance, and a large number of the neighbouring gentry hastened to the scene of the conflagration for the purpose of directing the efforts that should be made to extinguish it. The supply of water was unfortunately scanty, and a pool nearly a quarter of mile off was resorted to, from which the labourers, who worked with hearty goodwill, formed themselves into lines and handed the buckets to the engines. The most strenuous endeavours however ware ineffectual to check the flames, which having by this time spread through the whole upper tier of rooms, burst out of every window, and presented a grand but awful spectacle. All efforts were now directed to the preservation of the tower. and in this they were happily successful, although the fire once or twice threatened to extend to that point. The greater part of the furniture, which was of the most massive and splendid description, with the books and paintings, ware saved but greatly damaged in their removal. 'The fire continued to rage until after twelve o'clock at night, by which time the main part of the building was completely destroyed. The paintings, cornices, and decorations of the drawing-room alone were valued at several thousands of pounds. The fire is supposed to have originated in a storeroom underneath the roof, where one of the servant girls went about two o'clock to fetch some cheese and apples, and it is thought she dropped a spark amongst some loose shavings, from which it extended with frightful rapidity to the roof. Mrs. Moilliet was removed an soon as the fire was discovered to the Hundred House Inn, although her Majesty the Queen Dowager had, with her wonted benevolence, immediately upon hearing of the calamity, sent word that apartments at Witley Court were at the disposal of the family, Great numbers of persons have since visited the ruins, and workmen have been employed in removing the portions of the timbers and rubbish which block up the passages, and deep indeed are the expressions of sorrow uttered by the peasantry that such a misfortune should have happened to a family who had so distinguished themselves by kindness to the neighbouring poor.