From Stephanie Kent-Nye
Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 16 July 1897
The Cause A Mystery
A fire the cause of which is unknown, broke out on Thursday afternoon in a lumber room in the upper part of Tendring Manor House. The fire raged for several hours, and the house was burnt down. The Essex and Suffolk Fire Brigade attended from Colchester.
Tendring Manor was a palatial country residence situated about a mile from Weeley Railway Station on the Tendring Hundred Railway and had been occupied on lease for some years by Mr W H May, a retired naval officer, and his wife, the owner being Mr Durrant Edward Cardinall, of Brighton, and formerly of Ardleigh.
The outbreak was discovered by Mrs Goodall, the housekeeper, while the family were at luncheon, about a quarter to two o’clock. All efforts to cope with the flames were fruitless. They spread rapidly in all directions. At three o’clock the Thorpe fire engine arrived, but, after working a short time, was disabled. At four o’clock the Essex and Suffolk Brigade came from Colchester. By this time nearly the whole of the building was involved. The flames continued to rage for over three hours, burning steadily down into the basement, where a large number of wine bottles, with which the cellars were stored, burst with reports like those of a rifle.
Nearly the whole of the valuable contents of the house perished, as well as the extensive wardrobes of the occupants, who only escaped with the clothes they stood up in. Among the articles destroyed were several costly and beautifully carved marble mantelpieces, and a valuable organ some 200 years old. A large quantity of silver plate, valued at about £800 was destroyed, and a sackful of the melted remnants was recovered on Friday morning. A great deal of costly jewellery was also lost, including a ring in which the stone alone was valued at £40, and an extensive wardrobe belonging to Mrs May, worth some £250.
When the fire had finished its work of destruction all that could be seen of the front of the formerly imposing mansion was the fine Ionic façade and the walls surrounding the doorway, from which a massive solid mahogany door, worth about £50, had been completely burnt out. Inside, a few chimneys still stood erect, supported by massive oak beams, which, thought charred and burnt half through, still kept their position, and beyond this nothing was left but the four walls.
Roughly speaking, the loss sustained by the owner (Mr Cardinall) may be estimated at over £3,000 while Mr May’s loss is put at about £2,500. Both gentlemen were partly insured, Mr Cardinall in the Norwich Union for £2,500 and Mr May in the Essex and Suffolk Office for £1,000
Valuable assistance was rendered during the fire by Dr Foster, of Thorpe, the Rev. Arnold Page, Mrs Page, Mr Lloyd, Mr Jennings, Mr Taylor, Mr and Mrs Goddard, and others.
It was at first thought that the outbreak was due to the overheating of a flue leading from the kitchen, but it has since been ascertained that no fire was burning in the kitchen after eleven in the morning. The cause of the conflagration is, therefore, a mystery.