Tuesday 20th July 1915: Mr F. C. Bailey’s hat factory at 33 Williamson Street, Luton has been gutted by fire. The fire was discovered soon after 10 p.m. when a cabman standing by his cab saw flames leaping from the rear of the premises. He ran to a policeman on duty in Wellington Street to report the fire and a large crowd gathered. The fire brigade arrived promptly but the fire spread rapidly. It was obvious that the fire must have been burning for some time before it was spotted and it had taken a firm hold on the goods inside. The building was full of plait, velvets, ribbons, trimming material, and expensive hat sewing machinery, all of which were consumed by the flames. The old woodwork burnt like tinder and the firemen had great difficulty getting the fire under control. It could only be fought from the rear and hoses had to be run from Manchester Street and Williamson Street through the mission hall next to the factory. The brigade did splendid work keeping the fire within the one building. Messrs A. and P. Higgins’ factory next door suffered from the smoke, heat, and water, but was untouched by the flames although it is only separated from the burnt out property by a wood partition. Sadly a Persian cat known to those at the factory as “Tiddles” was unable to escape the flames.
Inspector Janes and his police officers did an excellent job maintaining order among the large crowd. Mr. F. C. Bailey himself was among them but could only look on helplessly. Damage to the building (owned by Mr. W. G. Holyoak) and contents is estimated at well over £2,000. Fortunately both are insured. The cause of the fire is not known. It was thought at first that it started in the velvet machine room, but although close to the burned out rooms this was found intact.