1936 fire cause?

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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truleigh
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Location: copenhagen

1936 fire cause?

Post by truleigh »

Having, as a Dane, read much of the www information about the fire, I am much puzzled. A few questions for locals or nerds , please:

1. Was there ever an official police inquiry into the cause? I mean, the causes mentioned on www, e.g. electrical device, women's cloakroom, seem totally unsubstantiated. Surely, with the assets involved and its symbolic value there must have been much attention drawn to the exact cause. At least for the public and the insurance company, however inadequate the coverage might have been.

2. And why no mention of this on www?

3. From the Croydon Guardian, below, it appears that the palace went into liquidation by 1936, same year as the fire. However, the palace was owned by the public since mid 1910's. Who actually owned it and how could they liquidate a publicly owned facility (or was it maybe just the operator who was liquidated)?

http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/news/c ... k/history/

marymck
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Post by marymck »

I'm no expert and I'm sure others on the Forum may have more information than I about the cause of the fire. However, I saw a TV documentary some years ago and I seem to recall that there was some issue with the amount of dust and debris that had collected in the under floor void (similar to what happened with the King's Cross fire). So, whilst that didn't actually cause the blaze, it did contribute to its ferocity.

mcleanmuir
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Location: West Wickham

Post by mcleanmuir »

For many years there was a strong theory amongst regulars in the Thicket Public House that a irate postman who lived next door torched the place because of the noise that was keeping him awake. I have spoke with someone who frequented the Thicket during the 40s and 50s and he said it was just more than a rumor.

There are of course many theories. Was this just the beer talking, we will never know?

truleigh
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Post by truleigh »

mcleanmuir wrote:For many years there was a strong theory amongst regulars in the Thicket Public House that a irate postman who lived next door torched the place because of the noise that was keeping him awake. I have spoke with someone who frequented the Thicket during the 40s and 50s and he said it was just more than a rumor.

There are of course many theories. Was this just the beer talking, we will never know?
What noise would that be?

ALIB
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Post by ALIB »

The fire was also very convenient. With war looming on the horizon, Crystal Palace would have made an oustanding datum for enemy bombers flying over.
The subsequent clearage of the site was very thorough, with no regard given to preservation.

leenewham
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Post by leenewham »

I asked a similar question to one of the guys in the museum.

The most likely scenario was similar to how the fire started in Kings Cross. The floor in the palace was made of wood and coated with tar. Over the years lots of rubbish had fallen though the floorboards and lots of stuff such as deckchairs etc were stored underneath the palace. Any number of things could have started the fire, from a discarded cigarette to faulty electrics.

The wind that evening didn't help and fanned the flames under the palace, the palace itself acted like a large woodburning stove or furnace.

Sad. Very sad. I don't think it was any conspiracy. Besides, I heard that the palace was actually turning a small profit by the time it burnt down.

chris_thomas
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Joined: 15 Jan 2007 20:32
Location: Sydenham

Crystal Palace Fire

Post by chris_thomas »

I dont know if it helps but I did write an article a few years ago on the Crystal Palace Fire (with newsreel film footage!).

This can be seen at:

http://www.palacemag.co.uk/history/fire/

Regards

Chris

truleigh
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Joined: 17 Feb 2010 23:08
Location: copenhagen

...

Post by truleigh »

Thanks for your replies.

However, actually, I was asking for the authorities' take on the fire. The way the police handled the inquiry, and the insurance company's questions. There must be official documents about these things accessible to the public.

Bram
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Post by Bram »

Sounds like a conspiracy theorist. Don't feed :D

simoneveritt
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Location: East Sussex

Re: 1936 fire cause?

Post by simoneveritt »

Again in the realms of 'don't know if this is just a rumour', but my great-grandfather was a photographer working out of a shop at the bottom of Sydneham Hill, shortly before the fire (family rumour varies from one month to six) he was ask to photograph all the statues and valuables in Palace for an insurance company! As well as views of the nave and grounds. According to him the reason all the photography was required was that the insurance value of the Palace was being raised?!

Melvyn Harrison
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1936 fire cause?

Post by Melvyn Harrison »

There was no enquiry into the cause of the fire because it was literally the wrong side of the road.

In 1936 Crystal Palace Parade was split in two by the line down the centre of the road. The Railway Station side (where the houses now are) was (and still is) Southwark and in London and the park side was Kent. The rule then was that any fire in London that required more than a certain number of pumps (the correct term for fire engines) had a public enquiry. But for any fire in Kent (parkside of the road) there had to be a death as a result of the fire for there to be an enquiry. There were no known deaths as a result of the fire. A few injuries but no deaths.

As for the insurance, the building was massively under insured because (like today it was very expensive and earned no money - it was a precaution. As the Crystal Palace Trustees were very short of money, insurance was not kept up to the correct value. There were invidual aspects within the building that were insured to the correct level like for instance the equipment kept by J.Lyons & Co caterers and the huge organ. They got their correct payout.

As regards the cause of the fire - this is unknown. However, there are a number of theories that bear credence - accident is a possibility, and some that do not - such as wanton arson by person or persons unknown for various reasons.

mcleanmuir
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Re:

Post by mcleanmuir »

truleigh wrote:
mcleanmuir wrote:For many years there was a strong theory amongst regulars in the Thicket Public House that a irate postman who lived next door torched the place because of the noise that was keeping him awake. I have spoke with someone who frequented the Thicket during the 40s and 50s and he said it was just more than a rumor.

There are of course many theories. Was this just the beer talking, we will never know?
What noise would that be?
Marching bands, concerts the zoo animals, cars, fairgrounds, buses and I would imagine the general noise of crowds coming in and out. I would think the place was not silent for one minute. If you want a witness to what it was like I know an elderly gent who grew up in The Paxton Arms, that was just accross the Road. He also spent a fair bit of time in the Exhibition.

truleigh
Posts: 8
Joined: 17 Feb 2010 23:08
Location: copenhagen

Re: 1936 fire cause?

Post by truleigh »

Melvyn Harrison wrote:There was no enquiry into the cause of the fire because it was literally the wrong side of the road.

In 1936 Crystal Palace Parade was split in two by the line down the centre of the road. The Railway Station side (where the houses now are) was (and still is) Southwark and in London and the park side was Kent. The rule then was that any fire in London that required more than a certain number of pumps (the correct term for fire engines) had a public enquiry. But for any fire in Kent (parkside of the road) there had to be a death as a result of the fire for there to be an enquiry. There were no known deaths as a result of the fire. A few injuries but no deaths.

As for the insurance, the building was massively under insured because (like today it was very expensive and earned no money - it was a precaution. As the Crystal Palace Trustees were very short of money, insurance was not kept up to the correct value. There were invidual aspects within the building that were insured to the correct level like for instance the equipment kept by J.Lyons & Co caterers and the huge organ. They got their correct payout.

As regards the cause of the fire - this is unknown. However, there are a number of theories that bear credence - accident is a possibility, and some that do not - such as wanton arson by person or persons unknown for various reasons.
Thanxxx. Very interesting info.

truleigh
Posts: 8
Joined: 17 Feb 2010 23:08
Location: copenhagen

Re: Re:

Post by truleigh »

mcleanmuir wrote:
truleigh wrote:
mcleanmuir wrote:For many years there was a strong theory amongst regulars in the Thicket Public House that a irate postman who lived next door torched the place because of the noise that was keeping him awake. I have spoke with someone who frequented the Thicket during the 40s and 50s and he said it was just more than a rumor.

There are of course many theories. Was this just the beer talking, we will never know?
What noise would that be?
Marching bands, concerts the zoo animals, cars, fairgrounds, buses and I would imagine the general noise of crowds coming in and out. I would think the place was not silent for one minute. If you want a witness to what it was like I know an elderly gent who grew up in The Paxton Arms, that was just accross the Road. He also spent a fair bit of time in the Exhibition.
Thanxxx for info.

Hill Dweller
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Location: Upper Syd

Re: 1936 fire cause?

Post by Hill Dweller »

There's lots of stuff on the net under 'crystal palace fire' Truleigh.
The below is just part of what's on Wiki :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Palace

Destruction by fire
Crystal Palace on fire

On 30 November 1936 came the final catastrophe - fire. Within hours the Palace was destroyed: the glow was visible across eight counties.[31] That night, Buckland was walking his dog near the palace, with his daughter (Chrystal Buckland, named for the palace[31]) when they noticed a red glow within. Inside, he found two of his employees fighting a small office fire,[32] that had started in the women's cloakroom.[31] Realising that it was a serious fire, they called the Penge fire brigade. But, even though 89 fire engines and over 400 firemen[33] arrived they were unable to extinguish it. (The fire spread quickly in the high winds that night,[34] because it could consume the dry old timber flooring,[35] and the huge quantity of flammable materials in the building.) Buckland said, “In a few hours we have seen the end of the Crystal Palace. Yet it will live in the memories not only of Englishmen, but the whole world”. 100,000 people came to Sydenham Hill to watch the blaze, among them Winston Churchill, who said, "This is the end of an age".[36]

Just as in 1866, when the north transept burnt down, the building was not adequately insured to cover the cost of rebuilding (at least two million pounds).[34]

The South Tower had been used for tests by television pioneer John Logie Baird for his mechanical television experiments, and much of his work was destroyed in the fire.[37][38]
[edit] Activity since the fire
Crystal Palace a few days after the night of the 30th November 1936; totally destroyed

All that was left standing after the 1936 fire were the two water towers, and these were taken down during the Second World War. The reason given was that the Germans could have used them to navigate their way to London. The north one was demolished with explosives in 1941;[39][40] the south tower was dismantled due to its proximity to other buildings.

With the palace's destruction, the High Level Branch station fell into disuse, and was finally shut down in 1954 . After the war, the site was used for a number of purposes. Between 1953 and 1973 an auto racing circuit operated on the site, some supported by the Greater London Council. The noise was unpopular with nearby residents and racing hours were soon regulated under a high court judgment.[28]


-----------------

the info about the racing circuit is especially interesting :) .... given the convo elsewhere on the forum about proposals for 'development' of CP Park itself.

.

chris_thomas
Posts: 27
Joined: 15 Jan 2007 20:32
Location: Sydenham

Re: 1936 fire cause?

Post by chris_thomas »

..and of course...Ahem..this:

http://palacemag.co.uk/history/fire/

truleigh
Posts: 8
Joined: 17 Feb 2010 23:08
Location: copenhagen

Re: 1936 fire cause?

Post by truleigh »

It's not that I don't appreciate your answers, Hill & chris, but I have spent some years investigating this matter on the www and in books etc, and I am still this day amazed by the fact that no official reason was given and no official investigations were carried out.

I mean the insurance companies are the first to suspect a phoney claim ...

Everybody and every web page is entitled to their opinion, but the report by fire investigators are really the ONE piece of evidence that counts. And still I am amazed that such values as were lost are not being more thoroughly accounted for.

And it's possible to find the answer. Nowadays, at least.

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