The Collingwood fire of 1904
Collingwood, once a booming gold town and, as Gibbstown, mooted as the nation's capital in the 1850's, was virtually destroyed by fire in 1904.
November 7, 1904, was a bleak day for the residents of Collingwood township.
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Little was left of the town after a disastrous fire swept through the heart of the settlement in the early hours of the morning. A strong Westerly wind aided the flames' journey as they leapt from Stallard's bakehouse to Rait's general store and the two adjoining houses of Mr G. H. Allan and Stallard's boarding house. The fire then spread across the street to the Post Office, Cottien's boot shop and on to Pinkerton's Hotel. Twenty businesses were destroyed that night and it was only the hard work of a large number of volunteers that prevented dwellings near the beach being added to the building loss.
The fire was bad enough, but residents, who had worked through the night trying to save their property, were dealt another blow when teeming rain started just after 3 a.m. With nowhere to immediately store their salvaged possessions it must have been heartbreaking to now find that water was the cause of further damage to their precious belongings.
As word of the disaster spread willing helpers arrived from Bainham, Rockville and Ferntown to lend a hand. Mr J C Burford, owner of the S.S. Lady Barkly, offered to take any large items from Nelson to Collingwood free of charge, and in Takaka and Nelson relief funds were established.
This story was first published in the Nelson Provincial Museum e-newsletter, 1ssue 27, May 2011
Updated August 14, 2020
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Further sources - The Collingwood fire of 1904
- Newport, J. N. W. (1971). Collingwood: A history of the area from earliest days to 1912. Printed at the Caxton Press.
- Newport, J. N. W. (1975). Golden Bay : One hundred years of local government. Golden Bay County Council.
- Petyt, C. (2003). Collingwood: The old cemetery and early history. Terracottage Books.
- Allan, H.F. (1989) The Collingwood fire 1904. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, 2(3), p. 41
- Griffith, P. (2008) Collingwood fires 1857-1904. Nelson Historical Society Journal, 6(6), p.32
- Griffith, P. (2008) Appendix. A fire in 1859: no evidence so far. Nelson Historical Society Journal, 6(6), p.38
- Destructive Fire at Collingwood (1904, November 7) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
- Summary (1904, November 21) Colonist, p. 5
- The Fire At Collingwood (1904, November 8) Nelson Evening Mail, p 2
- The Collingwood fire (1904, November 11) Nelson Evening Mail, p 2
- After the Collingwood fire (1904, November 19) Nelson Evening Mail, p 2