There are three known newspaper articles on fires at Arborfield Mill. This is from 'The Times' on 27th June 1829, and seems to suggest that there was both a Paper Mill and a Corn Mill in adjoining buildings. The Pither family have long links with farming in and around Arborfield, while the Jeacockes were bailiffs to the Newlands Estate, and were listed as Census enumerators over many years.
Thursday night (25th) at a quarter after ten o’clock, a fire broke out in the drying room at Arborfield Paper-mill, five miles from Reading, occupied by Mr. Rogers. So rapid were the flames, that in ten minutes the whole building together with a corn mill adjoining, worked by Mr. J. Pither, was in a complete blaze.
Parties returning from Ascot races arrived at Loddon Bridge just as the flames were observed, and several persons galloped off directly to give assistance; and although the distance from thence was not two miles, on their arrival, they found all efforts useless, for these extensive premises, 70 yards in length and 20 yards in depth, presented nothing but a vast mass of fire.
A messenger was despatched to Reading for the engine, and the Berks and Provincial and Mr. E. S. White’s County went over, and were useful in playing on the burning ruins, but the chief of the property had already been consumed. The tremendous fierceness of the fire may be judged of from massive beams formed from the largest trees having been burned in two and nearly consumed.
Mr. John Pither, whose dwelling house is very near, but luckily protected by a strong wall, on going upstairs, saw the flames through the drying room windows; he instantly ran over to his own mill, but so rapid was the progress of the devouring element, he found it in such a blaze that he could not enter. The drying room was in the centre of the building, and the flames proceeded with equal swiftness to both extremities, which accounts for the corn mill appearing on fire at the same instant, with the paper mill.
We hear there is too much reason to suspect that the fire was occasioned by some diabolical incendiary. Mr. Rogers is insured in the Guardian office for £2,800; and the buildings, which are the property of Major Dawson, for £3,500 in the Berks and Provincial office.
Mr. John Pither, who is a most industrious man, with a wife and large family of young children, we are sorry to find is uninsured; his loss will exceed £400, and we fear it will prove his total ruin, if he is not assisted by the public; we therefore trust that a subscription will be made for his relief from this dire calamity. Mr. Jeacocke, of Aborfield, who ground corn at the mill, is also a sufferer in flour to the value of £100.
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