North Watford History Group

Recollections of the British Moulded Hose fire

I was still at school then (Alexandra Secondary), having just finished my GCE papers and also school certificate. I vividly remember going back to school early that lunchtime to get a better view from the upstairs windows of the school. The smoke was the blackest black I had ever seen before, and a big cheer would go up as flames would suddenly shoot straight up through the smoke and into the sky. By the time the afternoon had past the firework display had dampened down somewhat, but it was still worth a visit to the site to see all the activities described in Colin Franklin's letter. [1]

It was remarked that the building did not fall because of the high quality of the brickwork, and it was rumoured that the demolition men who eventually knocked it down paid BMH to do the job and keep the bricks!

What was the cause? It was one of those conspiracy theory jobs. The works were going through one of their slumps, and rumours circulated that we were to close, the works manager denied it, but the fire did happen at lunchtime when nobody was working in the area that it started. Or did the hot sunlight catch on one of the hessian wrapped bales of hose in that area? An enquiry concluded that it was an accident.

It was a testament to the workforce and firefighters that the factory began production again within 7 days of the fire.

The excitement did not end there, as it was mentioned on the radio news, and was shown as part of what was then Pathe News in Cinemas. It was rather good that it should be in colour as well.

I started to work at BMH in November that year, and the place was full of hoses in corridors, smaller bales were in offices and anywhere they could be stored. Puddles still were in little corners from the fire fighting.

My immediate supervisor was Colin Franklin, who wrote the letter describing his day. When he left I took over his job and I stayed at BMH until 1974, when I was transferred to Lancashire, where I remain today. The factory was finally closed in about 1978, and its work transferred to Preston.


Author: John Langston


  1. Mayfield, Beowulf; Happy times at British Moulded Hose; Watford Observer, 25 Jan 2006 website

[Added by Glen: 10:38pm 4 Oct 2009]
[Updated by Glen: 11:17pm 18 Apr 2010]

This page was last updated on 18 April 2010.