JF Ptak Science Books Post 2334
I'm pretty sure that I've not seen statistics on the origins and causes of fires in William IV's London of 1836...probably the need for the numbers has never come up, nor has their serendipitous discovery. I have been interested distantly in firefighting techniques in earlier times, especially in places like London and Amsterdam, (and especially in reaching upper floors of narrow tall buildings), but the occurrence and frequency part never came up out of the technical interest in the firefighting tools.
But in this article on firefighting gear (depicted in the previous post, referencing The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, Volume 26, 1837) several pages in were these captivating numbers--they all seem to make sense, though overall seeing them together led to an overall feeling of surprise.
For example, of the 564 recorded and responded-to fires the two top causes were chimney fires (72 cases of the 564) and "bed-curtains set on fire" with 71. It is not clear to me what this means, but I'm guessing it had to do with having a bed too close to a fire, or perhaps coals were dropped somehow from a bedwarmer. A related cause was incautiopusly hung linens in front of fires (31), gas (38), candles (51), stoves (28), and so on.
The list of the places that caught fire is fascinating in itself. Most of the businesses no longer exist as sole entities, or if they do (for a business like 'coach making") they exist in very small numbers for a very specific and tiny niche market. That said most of the fires were in private houses (211 of the 564 reported incidents) followed by victuallers (36, and I suppose in this case the word relates to anyone selling food, as in a pub or inn), lodging houses (35), carpenter shops (26), "shops, office &c." (23), bakeries (20), bookshops and stationers (12), and so on down the list.
Then there are the other low-occasion fires in fascinating-sounding places, like straw-bonnet shops, feather merchants, cheesemongers, silk-weavers, oil-and-colourmen", and others, not the least of which were the Lucifer-match-makers.
All fascinating, really.
And somehow there was only one case of fire caused by tobacco smoking--I mean cigarettes basically didn't exist yet and especially so ion mass-produced form so there were no rolls of tobacco product enclosed with paper impregnated with chemicals to ensure that the ciggie will burn whether someone puffs or not--which is odd because it was still a fairly wide-spread habit in pipe-smoked form...still with the caveats it is a funny statistic. And I guess there was one case because so many others couldn't be confirmed to point of origin because everything got burned up. Or something along those lines.