The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Unlucky Liston Hall

In the evening of November 19th 1870, fire broke out at Liston Hall. After the fire, the house was rebuilt. Twelve years later, a second fire almost destroyed it again. The house survived until its eventual demolition after the Second World War.

An undated photo
of Liston Hall
We do not seem to have much in the way of pictures of the way the Hall looked, though there is a very splendid engraving at the records office. However, the three pictures we have suggest that the side-wings remained pretty well intact whereas the main house suffered two rebuilds. We can explain the first rebuild as being necessary due to the well-known fire but the second one is more of a buzzle as the second fire did not damage the building itself

Liston Hall
just before demolition
The house which was demolished in the 1950s was rather poor architecturally whereas the old photograph showed a rather smaller but quite different centre to the house.

The original appearance
of Liston Hall
The house was rented out to Lt Col Palmer for most of the nineteenth century and he suffered greatly from the two fires. The contemporary newspaper account was quite graphic in its detail of the first fire. A curiosity of the two reports is that, in both cases, the fire brigade were unable to asssist much due to the inadequacy of their equipment. By the time of the second fire, the redoubtable Colonel Palmer, who lived there, had sensibly obtained his own private fire engine and so the second blaze did not spread to the main building.

November 19th1870

On Tuesday evening at about a quarter to eight,an alarming and destructive fire broke out at Liston Hall, the residence of Lieut.Colonel Palmer,of the Scots Fusiliers Guards,about a mile distant from Melford-street.

The residence which was of red brick,stood in the centre of a small park,and was very substantially built,it contained 21 rooms. Attached were a newly built ball-room, a conservatory and greenhouses,stabling,gardeners and gamekeepers residences etc,ornamental gardens and pleasure grounds.
For a day or two previous smoke had been noticed about the house,but not to the extent that would create alarm,being attributed to a smoky chimney. It appears that the butler, Booth, a old and valued servant, being ill, a fire had been lit in his room.
At a few minutes before eight o'clock,his daughter who had been attending him,smelt fire in one of the attics and opened a trap door leading to the roof when she saw the flames burning fiercely. She rushed downstairs,and gave the alarm.
Booth had also simultaneously discovered the fire,and jumped out of bed. He was at once wrapped in a blanket and conveyed to a cottage near.
Col.Palmer had likewise noticed the smell of fire. No sooner however had the alarm been given than the entire roof seemed to burst into a mass of flames,which ascended to a great height.
The domestics and people who had flocked to the scene hastened to remove the furniture etc, but it was found to be impossible owing to the smoke to save any of the valuable furniture, pictures etc, from the library. On three sides of the mansion the furniture saved was piled and covered with rick cloths to protect it from sparks. The valuable plate,which was kept in the butler's room on the third storey,was in six chests but only two chests were saved. The servants lost all their clothing together with £40 which one servant had in a her box, Miss Palmer's wardrobe was also burnt.
The fire engine from Melford was the first to arrive but the water had to be procured from a pond at some distance and a second engine was required to force the water to feed the one playing on the building, the large engine from Sudbury also arrived but was delayed a short time owing to not having a sufficient length of hose ready, their hose having burst. At one time it was feared that the fire would spread to the laundry and the gardener's house, which were connected with the mansion by covered passages but the great solidity of the walls protected them. The energies of the firemen were therefore directed to prevent the flames from spreading from the main building. The massive oak beams and joists were a long time burning through,and at times sent up millions of sparks.
The fire also reached a large stock of coals in the cellars which burnt with great intensity. The wine in the wine cellar is supposed to be uninjured. Miss Palmer took shelter at the Rectory, Foxearth. There is very little doubt that the origin of the fire arose from the flue in the butler's room, a fire being first lit there on Sunday. It was not extinguished till between eight and nine o'clock on Wednesday morning. The flames could be seen for many miles, and persons came from a great distance to the fire.
The mansion and estate are the property of Richard Lambert,Esq.,who resides in Ireland. The Hall was insured for £1600 in the Suffolk Alliance Office,the furniture etc,was insured in the Westminster Office for £4000. Col.Palmer (who is the son of Sir Ralph Palmer and nephew of Sir Roundell Palmer,Q.C. M.P.)had taken Liston Hall on a long lease,and had expended a considerable sum in decoration and improvements.

November 14th1882

Late on Saturday night a fire broke out on the premises of Liston Hall the seat of Col.Palmer, resulting in the destruction of the extensive coach houses and stabling. It appears that shortly after before midnight, the housekeeper was awakened by some unusual noises and a sound of glass cracking and on looking from her window observed smoke and flames issuing from the direction of the buildings referred to, immediately the entire household was aroused and the alarm given, assistance was speedily at hand.
Happily the valuable horses were rescued from their perilous position, the carriages were likewise rescued and only suffered slight damage but the harness was destroyed.
The Melford Fire Brigade were in attendance but could not afford much aid as the hoses were insufficient. Good service was rendered by a small engine kept on the premises.
The fire is believed to have originated fom a chimney flue. Col.Palmer wa insured in the Suffolk Alliance Office but not to the full amount of the loss which is estimated at £ 600.
Many hundreds of people visited the scene on Sunday, we understand it is exactly 12 years since the mansion and contents were destroyed in a similar manner


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