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DESTRUCTION OF HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE. A fire at Her Majesty's Theatre on Friday night com- pletely destroyed the building in less than two hours. The fire broke out at about a quarter to eleven. Where or how it was discovered is not as yet known, but it is sufficient to say that shortly after the first alarm all the neighbourhood knew it far and near, for the theatre was one gigantic mass of flame in a few minutes. Anything like attempts to save property—that is to say, the pro- perties in the theatre—was quite out of the question, for the interior glowed like a furnace, and the flames, dart- ing through the slight roof, created a draught which instantly made all hope of saving either the building or anything in it totally impossible. The fire raised its own alarm, and large drafts of metropolitan policefrom Scotland Yard were instantly detached, under the com- mand of.Superinteudent Walker and Air. Kettel. 1 hey, however, could do little more than keep off the enor- muus crowds that at once collccted, out of danger. Detachments of the Foot Guards, both from the Wel- lington Barracks and the barracks at the back of tho National Gallery, came up almost simultaneously with the police. At least half of the troops were in full marc h- ing uniform, the rest in undress flannel jackets, just as they had been turned out of bed. With the assistance of this force the streets leading to the theatre were then kept clear, and the fire mains all round the Regent- street, Haymarket, and Pall Mall turned full on. The supply of water seemed ample, and fire engine after fire engine, as they came rapidly up, were got into the best Eositions for checking the spread of the tiames, for all ope of extinguishing them at their source was hope- less. The glare at this time was seen over the metro- polis, and tens of thousands flocked from all points to- wards the great centre of the disaster, while cabs, carri- ages, and even waggons blocked the thoroughfares which led to it. In a short time the steam fire engines were in full work, and, as fast as the nuw obsolete hand engines arrived, they, too, were set to work. The steam engines threw volumes of water with tremendous force, and where their jets fell they seemed tooxplode Inclonds of steam. Not so with the hand engines, which re- quired some thirty soldiers to work them, and the feeblo dribble from which was easily directed and governed by one man. The firemen climbed along parapets and copings at heights which made one cold to look at them dragging with them great lengths of leather hose with which to play upon the tiames at any point that seemed of consequence, no matter what the risk to the men themselves. In spite of flame and smoke and a terrifio Btorm of burning fragments, they kept their places on the roof, their comrades below turning now and then jets of water upon and around the men to keep the spots cool on which they stood. The scene continued to wax more and more terrible, and by about twelve o'clock was one of fearful grand- eur. The roof of the theatre fell shortly before amid a shower of sparks and burning fragments, leaving a gigantic mass of white flame in the centre, the very heat of which alone was charring up and burning build- ing after building around it. All the steam fire-engines were at full work, and the monotonous thud thud of those worked by hand were the only sounds which broke upon the hoarse roaring of the crowd and the heavy flap of the great sheet of flame, which seemed to jeo- pardise the existence of every building near the place. Over the front of the clubs in Pall Mall the burning fragments fell thick as hail; indeed, it was impossible at times to pass along this thoroughfare without danger of being severely burnt. The theatre was the main source of the whole fire. As is always tho case with theatres, it burnt like a tar barrel, but, as usual, left a mass of flame and heat which worked quickly and surely through into the surrounding buildings. House after house around it was gutted, in spite of all the efforts, of the firemen. The tiames, however, then were well j within control, and the engines were principally used: to keep the walls of the main building cool, for in many places they were bulging ominously. Still, from this work they had every now and then to be diverted as fresh flames appeared in the houses around. It is more than 160 years since a royal building was first erected on this site for the performance of operas. Strange to state, it has only been burnt down once be- fore-a rare exemption in the case of theatres, whose natural death seems fire. It was rebuilt and opened in 1791, and the exterior colonnade and facades completed by Mr. Nash in 1818. As far as could be ascertained, no loss of life occurred. Another account states that the audience at the Hay- market Theatre had turned out en masse at the first alarm, gentlemen in the Cafe de l'Europe had congre- gated on the steps of that hotel, hundreds of gentlemen and the thousand and one description and classes of iu- habitants of the metropolis, had assembled in the neigh- bourhood. The Haymarket swarmed with eager sight- seers. The roofs of all the houses on either side were covered by spectators whose curiosity would not allow them to remain in the streets. Pall Mail was filled by a crowd of anxious gazers, who stood and watched as the terrible fire raged under the influence of the north wind, and threatened to lap up the buildings on the south side of Pall Mall. Over Trafalgar Square the light shone with more than theatrical effect, and on the further side a dense mass of people gathered on the steps of St. Martin's Church stood out in relief in the reflection of the fire. Along the south side of the square, around its east and west, and north, along the whole of East and West Pall Mall, along the half of the Strand, were carriages, cabs, and almost impassable masses of people, whom the alarming flames had summoned to the scene. Those who stood near enjoyed a spectacle such as seldom offers to the sight of man. From the centre of the massive pile rose and glowed a grand and overwhelming blaze that bent before the wind and over- lapped the tall houses on the south side of Pall Mall, and threatened with destruction the whole block of buildings standing between the Haymarket and St. James's Park. As the fierceness of the fire decreased, one figure after another was seen to ascend to the apex of the roof, weakened and half destroyed by the firo that had played upon it for an hour and as one man after another was distinguished, the crowd below burst into loud and lusty cheers, encouraging them in their labours. Hardly had the dame upon the roof been sub- dued, when, yielding to the subtle force of the north wind, the fire burst through the Pall Mall side of the theatre, and by a reaction it seemed to en lap the ho- tel which bounds the theatre on the northern side. At the moment when the fiercest outburst of the flames drove back the crowd down every thoroughfare abut- ing on the blazing building,three or four explosions oc- curred within the pile, as of chemical materials stored in the interior of the building. Respecting the outbreak of the fire, it appears from the statements made to Mr. Mapleson, who arrived on the spot about half-past eleven o'clock, that there was nobody ou the premises except the doorkeeper, his wife, and the firemen on duty. Mr. Mapleson had left the theatre at six o'clock, having been there tbroughout the day, from eleven o'clock in the morning. The door- keeper states that he had gone to bed, and that about a quarter to eleven he awoke to find that the interior of the theatre was in flames. He saved his wife, and that seems to be all he knows of the matter. It has for years been the custom to keep experienced firemen night and day on duty in the theatre, and they had at every half- hour to go over the establishment to see that there was no danger to be apprehended from a fire taking place. In order thatthese necessary precautions should be fully carried out, there were placed in various parts of the house tell-tale clocks, which indicated whether the different compartments had been visited or not. On Friday night two firemen were, as usual, on duty, and they assert that at half-past ten o'clock they went their rounds and found "allcorrect." At five minutes before eleven o'clock a person connected with the theatre called out to the firemen, There is something the matter, 1 think, on the stage." The firemen came out, and, upon looking, saw a glimmering light near the back of that part of the building partially obscured by a flat. Upon getting to the place they found the floor of the stage burning with great fury, apparently from the bottom. Under this part of the building are im- mense receptacles for the stowage of old scenery, pro- perties, &c., which were, of necessity, of a highly ill- tlammablecharacter,aiid the flames seizing them caused the fire to spread with the rapidity, literally speaking, of lightning. Upon the roof of the building was an im- mense tank of water, capable of discharging thirty tons weight of water per minute, and there were lengths of leather hose attached thereto, so that every part of the theatre could be reached in case of a fire taking place in fact, the appliances were so perfect, that the pro- prietors imagined that, with proper care on the part of the firemen, and the water at hand, the establish- ment never could present the picture it does at this moment. The firemen at once turned on the water, and every hose, both in boxes, pit, galleries, and even Beck and Company's patent hydrants were charged, and water in abundance was poured upon that part of the theatre in flames, but the result was fruitless, for the fire shot forth in immense sheets, and whilst one of the firemen was on the stage the flames 'shot into Her Majesty's state box, then swept into the others on the grand tier, and actually swept across the vast ex- panse of the building to the other side. This was con- fined to the grand tier of subscription boxes and the stage. The pit at this time had not become ignited, and the firemen imagined that they would yet be able to get the conflagration confined to those parts. Un- fortunately they were mistaken in their calculations, for suddenly the Queen's box fell in a thorough state of ignition, firing first t he pit stalls, and then com- municatini* with the seats behind. Here a scene that can hardly be described with accuracy took place, the firemen being surrounded by flames on either side, and the burningtimbers falling upon them compelled them at last to make a retreat; and then the news was coin- municated to the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. Mr. Mapleson succeeded in removing from his pri- vate office a few valuable papers but the public will learn with regret that the whole of his property in the theatre, which amounted to several thousand pounds, was completely destroyed, and that no insurances had been effected on it. The building and valuable library, &c., belonging to the Earl of Dudley, were insured for £70,000, with £ 20,000 in consols as an additional in- surance. His lordship is therefore well secured. But the loss in valuable scores is one that cannot be re- placed, and the collection in many respects was unique.




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