Scotland's History Articles Glasgow's Cheapside Street Fire, 28th March 1960

Glasgow's Cheapside Street Fire, 28th March 1960

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The Night Glasgow Burned, BBC One Scotland, Sunday 28th March 2010, 17:05–17:35

The 28th March 2010 sees the fiftieth anniversary of one of Scotland's worst peacetime fires. The Cheapside Street fire razed an area of Glasgow to the ground and cost the lives of nineteen men.

On the evening of the 28th March a fire broke out in a bonded warehouse in Cheapside Street, Anderston. The fire took hold fuelled by over a million gallons of whisky and rum.

Shortly after the arrival of the fire services the warehouse exploded blasting out the walls and showering the firefighters with tonnes of rubble.

A fire engine crushed by masonry after the Cheaspside Street fire blast

Image: A fire engine crushed by falling masonry after the blast. Three firemen on the engine were killed before the ladder could be raised. Picture courtesy of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.

Fourteen firemen and five members of the Salvage Corps were killed instantly as the fire raged out of control. The fire spread to consume a tobacco warehouse, an ice cream factory and the Harland and Wolff engine factory.

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Video: archive news footage of the fire and the aftermath. (From It Has Been Reported... 30 Years of Television News, BBC Scotland.)

The location of the warehouse and the narrow streets around it meant that the blaze was almost impossible to fight effectively.

Destroyed warehouses on Cheapside Street, Glasgow

Image: Destroyed warehouses on the neighbouring Warroch Street the morning after the fire. Picture courtesy of Strathclyde Fire and Rescue.

Over 450 firefighters were drafted from divisions across the city and every single fire appliance in the city, including the new fire boat, were involved in fighting the flames.

Following the disaster, as Glasgow mourned, politicians promised action to ensure it could never happen again. But, as Reevel Alderson discovers in the BBC Scotland programme The Night Glasgow Burned, it took further tragedies before fire regulations were changed.

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Video: archive news footage of the James Watt Street fire. (From It Has Been Reported... 30 Years of Television News, BBC Scotland.)

Sadly, in the same year another Anderston blaze claimed the lives of twenty-two people. An upholstery factory on James Watt Street, just blocks from Cheapside Street, caught fire on the 18th November. Trapped by barred windows and a padlocked fire exit the unfortunate victims burned to death in sight of the emergency services. There were only three survivors.

Glasgow more than justified its reputation as the ‘Tinderbox City’.

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