A plumber’s mate informed the Coroner (Mr. S. E. Brown), at Keighley, Yorkshire, yesterday that a fire at Eastwood Mills, Keighley, on February 23, in which six women and two men died, started when he was using a blow-lamp.

A verdict of Death by Misadventure was returned in each case, the jury adding a rider that adequate fire warning systems should be installed in every factory or workshop.

The plumber’s mate, Peter Hutchinson, of Parkview Road, Heaton, Bradford, employed by a firm installing wash basins at the mill, said he was fixing copper piping to the joists on the ceiling. After he had brought the lamp to about 1 ft. from the fitting “there was a burst of flame from the joists. Fluff sticking to the joists and sides caught fire.” He tried to dash the flames out with his beret, but they raced straight into the spinning room floor.


Katherine Mary Smith, factory inspector for Keighley, said that on November 26, 1951, a letter was sent to the firm drawing their attention to the requirements of a fire alarm.

The Coroner: Have any further steps been taken with regard to the installation of a warning system? — I have no record of it.

George Frank Cellian, engine-man at the mill, told the Coroner that the only warning in case of fire was the stopping of the engine.

The Coroner: The engine does stop for other purposes? — Yes.

The fact that the engine stops is not an indication necessarily that there is a fire? — No.

Answering Mr. Alastair Sharp, for Hutchinson, Cellian said that during the five years he had been the engine-man he had not known any fire drill practice.

Oscar Hutchinson, an overlooker at the mill, said that all the work people were aware of the existence of the fire escape and the staircase.

The Coroner told the jury: “There appears to have been no system or method of warning the employees of the fire. That employees were working on four different floors seems to be largely responsible for this unfortunate tragedy.”

The Times; Friday, 23 March 1956