The Esplanade Hotel - Inquest into the 1908 fire
From the West Australian, Wednesday, April 29, 1908 - The Middleton Beach Fire - Destruction of the Esplanade Hotel
The inquest concerning the fire which resulted in the destruction of the Esplanade Hotel at Middleton Beach, on the morning of April 3, was concluded yesterday. Sergeant Leen conducted the proceedings for the police and Mr Dymes attended in the interests of Mr A H Vickers, the licensee of the hotel. Two fire adjusters, Messrs Horner and Stephens were also present. The evidence taken extended to the financial position of Mr Vickers, the nature of his examination being protested against by Mr Dymes.
After Mr Vickers had spent the morning in the box, the R.M. said he was satisfied with the answers the witness had given and the inquiry, must from then be limited to the origin of the fire. The evidence threw but ittle light on the outbreak. Mr Vickers and a man named Quitman were the only persons on the premises at the time of the fire. Mrs Vickers had left for a month's holiday in Beverley onthe previous Saturday and the last of the servants was sent away on the Sunday. The licensee had not refused to take in visitors, but he told a gentleman and his wife who came to the hotel that, if they remained Mrs Vickers would have to be telegraphed for. Under these circumstanhces they left right away.
The night before the fire, Vickers, Quitman and a soldier from the forts named Langlands had supper in the kitchen at 9.30pm, lighting a fire in the stove for the purpose. They then remaincd talking till 1.30am when Langlands left and the others went to bed, occupying different room. At 5am, Vickers was awakened by a noise of something falling and upon getting up he found the back of' the premises ablaze. He called Quitman and the two made an ineffectutal attempt to check the flames, before devoting their attentioni to removing some of the furniture. The house was completely destroyed in an hour.
Among the articles saved was a cabinet insured for £22 10s and valued at £140. Vickers estimated his loss in curios and other possessions at upwards of £900. He bought the hotel and furniture last April for £1,500, £250 to be paid down, a similar amount to be paid in two years and the balance in six years. None of the money had been paid. The cost of additions to the building (£302) had also not been paid, while £30 of £85 to be paid for stock taken over from the previous licensee was also outstanding. Thip building was insured for £1,500 and the furnitiure and stock for £600. The mortgage on the latter was held by a local firm.
The jury found that the hotel was destroyed by fire on April 3, but that there was no evidence to show how the fire originated. Upon application of the police the license of the Esplanade Hotel was suspended pending the provision of adequate acconmodation.