Life Saving Awards from the Collection of John Wilson

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2013

Sold for £700

Estimate: £700 - £800

Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, 2nd type, silver, reverse inscribed, ‘Presented at the Anniversary Meeting, May 14 1849. The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor Sir James Duke, M.P. in the chair, to Charles Smith 240 G Div. for his perservering intrepid conduct at the fire on Holborn Hill, May 5 1848 where by the valuable assistance he rendered the Society’s fire escape conductors the lives of six persons were rescued.’, oval ring suspension, minor edge bruising, good very fine, rare £700-800

Footnote

Ex R. W. Gould Collection, D.N.W. 20 September 2002.

27 2nd type medals awarded.

R.S.P.L.F. Minute Book – Case 600: ‘Fire at 68 Holborn – Charles Smith 240G and Frederick Chapman Fire Conductor both were examined by the Committee separately and it appeared from their evidence that Conductor Sunshine first arrived at the fire with the Hatton Garden Escape and rescued the life of Mrs C. Corp, while bringing her down the canvass Chapman arrived with the Bridge Street Escape, (even before the Farringdon St. Engine) hearing there were inmates at the back of the house he with the assistance of PC Smith entered the next house with his short ladder, and they together succeeded in getting onto the back leads through the skylight at end of W. Lloyd’s shop, from thence with some difficulty they got over the roofs of two buildings and a wall, having now been encouraged on by the cries of several persons for help – by dint of great perseverance they ultimately placed the ladder against the back second floor of no 68 where several persons were. Conductor Chapman brought the first down who proved to be Mrs Winter, with whom he made the best of his way, the fire at the time was coming through the roofs over which they were only able to come by using the ladder to tread across upon … they had hardly all got clear over on to Mr Lloyds leads, before the whole of the premises where they had been fell in.

Extract from Saved from the Flames, by Roger Willoughby and John Wilson -

Case 600: Conductor (6) Frederick Chapman: Silver medal and one sovereign; PC (240G) Charles Smith: Silver medal.

Details: MB(1) SGM 12 May 1848 and QGM 31 July 1848. The minutes of the 12 May meeting recorded that with respect to the fire at 68 Holborn ‘Charles Smith, 240G, and Frederick Chapman, Fire Conductor No. 6, were examined by the Committee separately. It appeared from the evidence that Conductor Sunshine first arrived at the fire with the Hatton Garden Escape and rescued the life of Mrs C Corp. While bringing her down the canvas Chapman, arrived…[with] the Bridge Street Escape (even before the Farringdon Street Engine). Hearing there were inmates at the back of the house, he with the assistance of PC Smith entered the next house with his short ladder, and they together succeeded in getting onto the back leads through the skylight at end of Mr Lloyd’s shop. From there, with some difficulty, they got over the roofs of two buildings and a wall, having now been encouraged on by cries of several persons for help. By dint of great perseverance they ultimately placed the ladder against the back second floor of No. 68 where several persons were. Conductor Chapman brought the first down who proved to be Mrs Winter, with whom he made the best of his way back over the roof, followed by the other parties. The fire at this time was coming through the roofs over which they were only able to come by using the ladder to tread across upon. Both witnesses assured the Committee that they had hardly all got clear over onto Mr Lloyd’s leads, before the whole of the premises where they had been fell in. Ordered ‘that this Committee are of the opinion the conduct of the Conductors Chapman & Sunshine and PC Smith and also the 2 City Policemen are strongly deserving of reward etc. (Further testimony sought from the rescued). A Communication was read from the parties saved at this fire recommending the Fire-Escape Conductors for reward also the constable assisting them. It was signed also by 15 householders on Holborn Hill stating that had it not been for the Fire-Escapes several lives must have been lost. Resolved that agreeable to the merits of the several persons concerned in saving the lives at that fire the following rewards be voted: To Conductor Sunshine, one sovereign and a certificate on vellum; Conductor Chapman – silver medal & one sovereign; PC Smith 240 G – silver medal’.

The awards are documented in The Times (15 May 1849) thus: ‘ROYAL SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF LIFE ANNUAL MEETING - Fire-escape conductor Chapman, No. 6 in the service; PC Smith, 240 G, and conductor Sunshine, No. 1, for exertions in saving several lives at the fire on Holborn Hill; Chapman, the Society’s silver medal (exceedingly well executed, and weighing nearly two ounces) and a sovereign; Smith, the silver medal; and Sunshine, a framed testimonial and a sovereign’. See also Lloyd’s Weekly London News (20 May 1849), The Daily News (15 May 1849, p. 6), and LSARS Journal, 50: p.70-80.

With copied research.