Memories of a Marnhull fire – Then & Now


Roger Guttridge shares some remarkable Edwardian pictures of Marnhull’s biggest store, which rose from the ashes of a fire 114 years ago

Crowds gather to assess the damage at Hayter’s. Archive photos from Blackmore Vale Camera, by Roger Guttridge

In 1991, David Wilkins kindly lent me a remarkable set of early 20th century photographs of Hayter’s Stores and Bakery in Marnhull. The pictures are particularly unusual in that they include a couple of internal shots, taken before a fire that reduced Hayter’s to a smouldering ruin.

Inside the drapery section before the fire.

External pictures show the Burton Street premises in the immediate aftermath of the fire and after the rebuild.
The blaze broke out in the early hours of 2nd March 1909.
Few people had telephones then and messenger George Turner cycled all the way to Gillingham to alert the fire brigade.

The morning after’ – a fuzzy view of Hayter’s from The Marn’ll Book

There was little they could do for Hayter’s, but they arrived in time to save the adjoining Queen’s Head Inn. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, but five horses were killed.
The premises were rebuilt by W Wilkins, who I believe was a relative of David.
The sign above the two-storey Queen’s Head porch in the rebuild picture tells us that Henry Haskett was the licensee.
That building is now a private residence called Moonfleet, but more than a century later it looks almost identical – right down to the porch roof, the bay window and the chimneys.

Hayter’s after the rebuild

The three-storey former Hayter’s building remains a mini commercial centre today, with a farm shop and a hair and beauty salon occupying the visible shops, and a curtain and carpet shop, general stores and post office around the corner.
In the pre-fire internal shots, some of the product names displayed in the general store will still be familiar to many readers today – such as Hovis and Nestlé’s and perhaps even Wills’ Gold Flake tobacco.

Inside the grocery store before the fire

The drapery section appears to be selling rolled up carpets as well as ladies’ clothing. It’s remarkable that carpet sales have survived to the present day!
An additional picture of the fire damage appears on page 140 of The Marn’ll Book (1952)

The former Hayter’s and Queen’s Head today.

Used copies of Roger’s Blackmore Vale Camera (which contains these archive images) can be obtained via Abebooks


  1. My great grandparents used to run the ‘Queen’s Head. My great grandad was also a blacksmith. I think his workshop was throgh the double doors to the left of the picture.


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