1926: Exciting Fire Scenes


The prompt and plucky action of a 17-year-old servant, Margaret Bateson, led to the rescue of all the inmates of a burning isolated farmhouse on Fellside, at Oxenholme, four miles from Kendal, at midnight on Sunday. Unaided she rescued a 23-year-old labourer from an upstairs room.

The girl, who sleeps above the kitchen, was awakened by fumes. She went downstairs for a drink of water and found the kitchen on fire. Returning upstairs she roused the farmer’s son, Henry Rishton. By this time the stairway was impassable owing to smoke, and Rishton, telling the girl to rouse the others, leapt 18 feet from the bedroom window in his bare feet. He got out the car ready to drive to Kendal to summon the fire brigade.

Frank Rishton, aged 77, the farmer, was awakened by the motor horn, and went to the bedroom window and threw out his son’s trousers and slippers.  The old man then awoke his 70-year-old wife and wrapping her in a blanket let her down to the roof of an outbuilding against which the son, before his departure, placed a ladder.

In the meantime Margaret Bateson had awakened the two male farm servants, George Mason and Wilfred Smith. The latter went through the window to assist his employer, who had escaped in the same way as his wife. Together they did their best to fight the fire.

Margaret Bateson, on finding that Mason had not escaped, re-entered his bedroom and found that he had been overcome by the fumes. She dragged him from bed and across the landing into her room, beneath the window of which as another outbuilding. After a great effort she got Mason through the window and together they slid down the sloping roof, dropped six feet on to another roof, slipped down this, and jumped ten feet to the ground.

Frank Rishton, in an interview, said that had the alarm been given a few minutes later the household would have had no chance whatever of escaping. The fire engine was bogged in a muddy lane leading to the farm and had to be dragged out by a tractor. The brigade fought the fire until five o’clock in the morning. The loss includes old oak furniture, pewter and brass.

Miss Bateson told a “Lancashire Daily Post” correspondent that she was aroused about midnight by a tickling sensation in the throat. “Realising the house was on fire,” she said, “I threw something about me and roused Harry Rishton, son of the farmer, Frank Rishton. Then I went into the farm men’s room across the landing opposite mine. This was full of smoke, and George Mason was gasping and struggling for breath on his bed. The fumes here were suffocating. By the noise I knew the others were busy, so I shook Mason vigorously, and at last got him up. Assisting him across the landing into my room I helped him to climb on to a roof. Still holding his hand we slid down on to the second roof, where Mason had to lie gasping for breath before we could both jump to the ground.

Lancashire Evening Post 14 December 1926


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