The History of Wandsworth Common


Is "Constable Hobbs, 216 D" John's father?
(Click on image to enlarge)

Bell's Weekly Messenger — Saturday 05 March 1859



On Saturday morning, between and two o'clock, fire, causing the loss of six lives, occurred the residence of Mr. J.R. Reeves, eating-house-keeper, No. SW, Great Janiesstrcot, Marylebone.

Mr. Reeves closed his shop, about eleven o'clock on Friday night, leaving, it was supposed, on his retiring to rest, everything secure. At the time stated, Hobbs, No. 216 D, saw smoke rushing out between the window shutters. He immediately raised an alarm, and messengers were sent for the fire-escapes and engines. Among the inmates of the house were Mr. Reeves, his wife, who is close to her confinement ; Mary Wayland, the assistant cook and Mary Goody, aged woman, engaged as nurse to Mrs. Reeves. Scarcely had the alarm been given when Mr. Reeves and his family appeared at the front windows of the upper floor, with the nurse and c.M.k, imploring help, as all hope of escape was cut off from below. Some persons who had assembled procured a ladder, but it was found too short. The cook, however, by the aid of her master reached the upper spoke, and got to the ground. The smoke was coming through the windows at which the remainder of the family were raising the most piteous cries, when their hopes of relief were excited by the arrival of the fire-escapes, under the charge of Hall and Horne. Two of the children were got down in safety, and constable Hobbs had gone up, and had secured Mrs. Reeves and one of the children, when some person broke open the street-door, thereby at once giving vent to the air, which drove the flames with tremendous force through the shop shutters and first-floor windows. The result was to set fire to the escape on which the poor fellow Hobbs was, with Mrs. Reeves and one of her children in his arms, burning him so that he was forced to let his hold, and he fell with his burden to the ground with a frightful crash. The poor fellow was picked up almost insensible, and on raising him it was found that the thigh of one leg and the ankle of the other were broken. The child was also insensible. Mrs. Reeves was taken to the residence of Mr. Newport, baker, and was attended by Mr. Robinson, a surgeon.

By this time a vast concourse of people had assembled, and amongst the number two "ladies" in a cab, who, notwithstanding the frightful occurrence they had just witnessed, and an earnest appeal to them for the use of the vehicle to take the sufferers to St. Mary's Hospital, most inhumanly refused, when the enraged bystanders summarily ejected them.

While this scene was going on below, a still more hairowing and painful one was proceeding above. Some of Mr. Reeves's children had already disappeared from the windows, no doubt from the effects of suffocation, when escape-inspector Horne, finding it impossible to plant his escape in front of the now blazing building, placed it against the adjoining house, and having unshipped his short ladder, reached the roof, in the hope of rescuing Mr. Reeves and the other persons still clinging in the deepest agony and suspense to the front of the window. He had just completed his preparations, when a loud crash was heard the* flooring had given way, and the unfortunate man, the aged nurse, and two of the children, were plunged into the midst of the flames. The exertions of the firemen wore then directed towards saving the surrounding property and cooling the ruins of Mr. Reeves's house, with the view of saving the bodies from utter destruction. It was not until nearly eight o'clock on Saturday morning that the ruins were sufficiently cool to insure examination with safety. At that time Tozer and other firemen succeeded in discovering the remains of five persons in a frightfully charred condition. Shells were procured, and they were removed to the infirmary of Marylebono Workhouse.

On Monday Mr. Wakley, the coroner for West Middlesex, ojiened inquiry at the Buffalo's Head Tavern, Now-road, St. Marylebone, relative to the deaths of John Rufus Reeves, 'aged 30 ; Rufus Reeves the younger, aged years ; Jane Reeves, aged years ; Frederick Reeves, aged 2 years; Emily Reeves, aged 16 months ; and Goody, alias Goddard, aged 70, who perished in the above fire. When all the witnesses had been examined, the jury after consulting, returned a verdict * That the deceased were accidentally burnt to death, but how the fire was caused there was no evidence to prove ; that no blame was attributable to the escapcman, but, on the contrary, groat praise ; and they were of opinion that the police had not properly acted to their instructions the commencement of the fire."

[BNA: Link.]

Another account


Morning Chronicle — Monday 28 February 1859


On Saturday morning, between one and two o'clock, a fire of a very destructive nature, resulting in the loss of -orneivoliv ?? occurred at the residence of M1r. John ,Rufus Reevts, eating-house keeper, situate No. 30, Great James- aards street; Marylebone. The circumstances attendant upon this lamentable catastrophe are of an unusually distressing~olaracter, and have created a painful interest through- 'opt-the densely-populated noighbourhood in which it occurred.. . , y. It appears, from what can be ascertained, that Mr. Reeves ,hief closed his shop, as usual, about eleven o'clock on Friday night, leaving, it was supposed, on his retiring to rest, everything. seeife, At the time stated Constable Hobbs, No. ibels 216 D, on going his rounds, fancied he saw from the corner of Bel.-street, 'front which point. Mr. Reeves's shop was only four doors, smoke or steam rushing out between the cus l window-shuiters. He went at once to the houso, and the : :charaoter of the smoke as well as the, smell indicated that n the shop was on fire. He immediately raised 'an alarm by knocking at the door to orouse the inmates, and messengers ?? *Vreseint to procure the. fireescapes and engines. The in- otld 'mates of .the house consisted of IIr. Reeves, who was but 27 - 'nyearsnof age, but lame; his wife, who was close to hir eonu ikemaent;; Mary Wayland, the assistant cook; and Drlary Jones, an aged female, who had only recently been cigaged ae nurse to; Mrs. Reeves 'on the occasion referred to.

Scarcely had the alarm boon given when the most egonising oand painfil-scene presented itself, in the appearance, of -Mr. Reeves and his family at the front windows of the upper S floor, with the nurse and cook, all screaming and imploring help' as all communication or means of escape was cut off .from. belowl by the tire, which they had discovered was already rushing up the staircase of the house. 'At this [,s .a -tlMr.;Reeveseexhibited the.most axtraorqinaxypre- oe. of . mind, and some persons' wio had' 'asstib ed pro- rn red a ladder with the least possible delay, but on its arrivea it was found. too short. Tihe cqok, howIver, 'deter- mined on making the attempt to get out, and', aith the *aid of her unfortunate master she reached the urb ?? a ?? of the gldder, ad got sOi', ?? - ?? be seen VO1;^ ' & i:, .i. : N ite ?? * ?? .gb touga +ev< -ldowslet wlvieh' tfe- reiaianoer of the family were stand' t'J -lug "riiihg, 'especially the poor children and Mrs. Reeves, ;2g,! the'most pniteous- eries,'when their hopes of relief tero ox- avs tited'by the arrival of the fire escapee, under the oharge of er 'Hallitid Horia,'ivo'of the men belonging to the' society. ider By this means two of the children were got down, invsafety, and ?? had gone up' and had secured the per- re- son of Mrs. Reeves and one of the children, when some over- ly oaflcious eed'm'ost'ijndioio is behon' erke open the street- g door, thereby at vent to the air, which drove the weflames with tremen dous force. through the shop shut- *.ters' and first-floor windows. "-Thhe result was 4o set fire to the escape' on which the poor fellow Hobbs tice was, wits.' 'rs. Reeves' and. 'one of her children ,ub his' arms- burning him so. that he 'wa, forced to l . det glohis hold, and he fell with his burthen to the''ground ius- ih a frightful crash. The poor fellow.was picktd ualmest gIi-ingenrible, a nd. on raising him it was. , d a the fledthighif'one leg and thd ancle of /the other were broken. The' Eaild', was' aleo insensible. ' As. Mrs. Reeves a ths peared to-be only slightly' injured, she: was 'takanl 'to the resideneot; Mr: Newport, baker in the same street, and F'in was immeditely-attended to by' k1r. Robinson, a- surgeon, irit wo'was on t4c spot, and who advised the ifminediate re- on moval of the unxlsrtunate constable and child to the hospital.

Bo' this rimhe a vait concourse of people had assembled, and amongst ithei'numbr two. " I ladies " in a cab, who, notwith- Wr isand1ng'the' frightol tdccurrentO they had just wifthessed, fo'tfe and enarnest. appeal to them for 'the use of the vehicle to art take the sufferers to St. Mary's Hospital, they most in- Lim hunmsndyreses.ed, ?? forcibly and sum. 's9 arilyejectGdthoM and made them suffer for their brutality. ?? this scene was going on below,astill morebarrow' for ing and painful one was proceeding above. -Some' of Mr. mnd Reeoes's children had already disappeared from the windows, no doubt from the effects of suftbration, when .Escape- 'ho Inspector Home, finding it impossible to plant his' escape iezh trqnx of 'the nxdw blazing bnildihg without its sharing , the 0a=b fate as that 'belonging to his brother officer Ie Hall. planted it against the adjoining house, and having 'upshipped his short ladder he-reached the roof 'in the J hope' of being, enabled thus to rescue Mr. Reeves and the other. persons still clingiig in the deeepest, agony and suspense to the front of the windows. . He had just completed his proparations,whena loud and sudden crash -.was heard-'.the .fioohrig had 'given way, and the sinfortu- nate man, with his aged nurse and two of his children, was plunged into the midst of the burning abyss beneath. A frightfnl'ell of agony and. despair, as well as of- sympathy t buret from the spectators of this truly heart-rending and t sgonissng scene, who had no power to assist their fellow- ?? "reatnses Or relieve them from their fearful doom. t U p to this tihe'no fire-eagineo had arrived, and notwithx to standing the usual efforts' made tb 'parade the proraptness . with which the' brigade engines are always on the spot, in tkiis ?? 'as On many other oceasions when fires : havehppenedinthenorth-western districtsofthe.metropolis, in there -weto loud complaints' amongst the inhabitants of the ?? that three-quarters of an hour had elapsed before any engine whatever arrived, and that was the engine belonging to the parish of Paddington, which had got to play before the arrival of..the engine from iKing'street, Portman-square, whih 'is 'the tiearest brigade station to the northtweiterh district of the metropolis. Other engines then followed, but the entire of the unfortunate Mr. Lt Resvee's,.premises, with its contents, were consumed; and a the exeitioes of the'firemen were then directed in the most t praligerthwhy'aid zealous mainne towards saving the sur- i rounudixtg-property1 ehad cooling the 'ruins of Mr. Reeves's . house, with a view of saving the - bodies from utter 'destruc- tib'; and of gottingthe )emains out- with the least possible ' delay. -Et was-not unti nearly 8 o'clock on Saturday morning r that the ddbriswere sufficiently cool to ensure an examination awith-aafety. Atthattime'Tozer and other fremen made an B exploration, ced suteeded in discovering the remains of the s following, in so frightfully charred and undistinguishable a. a condition as to be wholly incapable of identity. Shells were . procured, and they were removed to the infirmary of Mary-lebone workhouse, where they await a coroner's inquest. ; These remains consisted of Mr. John Rufus Reeves, aged 27; 3l!ary Jones. (the aurse), aged 70; . Jane Reeves, aged three years; Frederick Reeves; aged one year and a half; and Emily Reeves, aged four years. The other child, whose name had not transpired, was stated to .have died in the hospital during the day, which would make the number of I ilerses who have lost their lives six, instead of five. It is also stated that the fire-escape man, Hall was very seriously injured by the fall of the policeman with VMre. Reeves. The cause oftheoutbreakof the fre is at present on- knoawn,'-but the ipres'sidn is:thatit. resulted from some escape .of gas, but nothing positive - on the -point could be elcited. The goods'&c, belorngtig to Mr. Reees are stated to have been insured in the County; inid- the building in the Union Fire-office. It is expected, when the coroner's in- ,quest takes plae; that' a' most' rigid investigation will be ., made, ?? only into the erig'in of the firehbut also 'as to the cm- - protected state of the 'nortic and north~-western districts of the metropolis, with a population of nearly osmillion of people; ini case~s such as that-just narrated. .

[BNA: Link.]

Odd notes

Was PC Hobbs forced by his injuries to leave the police (hence the slightly odd phrase "ex-policeman"), and did he die later as a result?

I've checked the Return of deaths in the Metropolitan Police Force at the National Archive but I can't find him. Also the Register of local constables sworn in to act within the Metropolitan Police. Again nothing.

All London, England, Metropolitan Police Pension Registers, 1852-1932 results for Hobbs.

[Ancestry: Link.]

[Ancestry: Link.]

[Ancestry: Link.]

Could this be PC Hobbs? (Probably not.)

James Hobbs

Resigned 16 May 1872 "being unfit for further service".

Pension 33 16 0

Born Winsley, Bradford, Wilts 6 Feb 1830

Father = William Hobbs

Mother = Elizabeth

Joined Westminster 19.1.1857 in D Division

Transferred to A? X? Division 30 October 1865

Probably not him, since no son of roughly the right age, and several years after the case

[Ancestry: 1861: Link.]

[Ancestry: 1871: Link.]

I've also had a (v quick) look for the Lee family in the 1861 Census, but nothing obvious.