Fire at the Queen’s

On Sunday, November 24th, 1907 a huge fire destroyed the Queen’s Palace.  The Manchester Guardian reported the disaster on the following day and their article is transcribed below.

FIRE AT RHYL

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DESTRUCTION  OF QUEEN’S PALACE

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A GALE FROM SEA

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FIREMEN HURT AND £70,000 DAMAGE

“A fierce fire raged yesterday at Rhyl, and resulted in the total destruction of the Queen’s Palace Ballroom and Theatre and the adjoining Arcade and in considerable damage to the Queen’s Hotel and other property.  The damage is roughly estimated at £70,000, of which £25,000 is covered by insurance.

A north-westerly gale blowing in from the sea baffled the firemen’s efforts and was the cause of the destruction of property being so great.  Four firemen were hurt, and a boy had his leg broken by falling wreckage.  Last night the firemen were still playing on the smouldering ruins.

The night had been very stormy, and half a gale of wind was blowing when, shortly after daybreak, the fire-bell rang out and awakened the residents.  The news that the Queen’s Palace was on fire spread from street to street.  Within half an hour of the alarm being given the flames were to be seen breaking through the glass dome of the tower.  Crowds flocked to the seafront, and the gale that was blowing fanned the flames, while smoke poured forth from every part of the building.  The Volunteer Fire Brigade, under Captain Parry, responded to the call, and the Rhuddlan, Abergele, and Prestatyn brigades were telephoned for.

The wind sent the flames from the seafront right into the heart of the building.  It was impossible to get into the Queen’s Arcade, adjoining the Palace, after a short time, the flames breaking forth as from a furnace.  From the very first the firemen realised that they could save nothing of the Palace, the seaward portion of the Arcade, “Venice”, or the tower, with the shops underneath, and so they devoted their attention to preventing the flames spreading to the business premises in High Street, which adjoin the back of the Arcade, and in this they were successful.

Within an hour of the outbreak being discovered the walls of the Palace fell in, and Fireman John Jones was injured by the falling wreckage.  A boy named T. Roberts had his leg broken.  although the brigades poured tons of water on the flames, they seemed to make little headway.  Portions of the glass roof of the Arcade fell in from time to time, making a startling noise, while the roar of the flames as each fresh opening was made was terrific.

In every house near the Palace on the leeward side the residents realised that their property was in danger, and they promptly took out all their portable goods and stored them elsewhere.  From the Queen’s Hotel a large quantity of things was taken out before the flames reached that building.  A theatrical company was to be seen leaving the hotel with handbags, while they bemoaned the loss of their properties in the Palace.  A motor-car was at the back of the hotel, and this was hauled away by a large number of men.

At the Baptist Chapel no service was held, the adjacent wall being in danger of falling, but the communion plate and other valuable property was taken away.

Just as people were going to church at eleven o’clock the tower collapsed.  It toppled for a few moments, and then fell with a crash into the roadway, several men having narrow escapes.

Not merely sparks, but masses of incandescent material as big as paving-stones were blown across the narrow space intervening between the Palace premises and the High Street shops.  A fire started at the Royal Hotel, at the corner of High Street and Sussex Street, and also in one of the bedrooms, but Mr Gibson, the proprietor, and his servants extinguished both outbreaks with buckets of water.

The Rhyl Brigade, who tackled the main building, bore the brunt of the danger, and four men were injured, two rather seriously.

WHAT WAS THE CAUSE?

Beneath the Palace floor was a basement which was laid out with scenery and a canal of real water to represent Venice.  How the fire originated no one knows, but it is supposed that it broke out in “Venice” or in the ballroom above.  There was a watchman on the premises, whose duty it was to make several rounds during the night, and it was he who discovered the fire at about seven o’clock.  Mr John Williams, photographer, had, smelt smoke, and had called the attention of the police to the matter.

A variety entertainment was given in the Palace on Saturday night, but the audience was a very small one.  The place appears to have been closed as usual.

THE DAMAGE

The fire has utterly destroyed the Palace ballroom and theatre, the dome, the shops on either side of the Queen’s Arcade, and the roof gardens above them (which gave a sheltered promenade a quarter of a mile in length), and the whole of the facade, excepting about half of the front of the Queen’s hotel.  This hotel has been much damaged, especially the spacious billiard and luncheon room behind the Arcade shops.  A portion of the front of the hotel remains, and a further end of the Arcade with its frontage to Sussex Street, but the damage must amount to at least £70,000.

The buildings belonged to the Queen’s Palace, Arcade and Hotel Company, Limited, of which Mr. H. E. Doughty, solicitor, Manchester and Poulton-le-Fylde, is the chairman.  The Company was registered with a capital of about £90,000. but since then a large amount of money has been spent on the alterations.  The decorations were lavish.  The Palace ballroom was claimed to be the second finest of its kind in the Kingdom.  It had a dancing floor of 3,118 square yards, the polished parquet oak floor being laid on 2,500 spiral springs.  there was a balcony on each side of the hall, with a wider gallery at the end, and the ceiling and walls were handsomely modelled and painted.  An expensive electrical equipment was installed.

Mr Doughty and Mr F. Biddiscombe, of Blackpool, another director of the Palace Company, travelled to Rhyl yesterday by special train from Preston.  They were seen later in the day by our Rhyl representative.  The Palace as it stood cost £80,000, and it was insured for only £25,000.  The estimate of the damage at £70,000 was confirmed approximately.  The proprietors are only some five in number.  The Palace was constructed mainly of iron and brickwork on concrete, and was regarded as fireproof, but fire appliances were lavishly provided.

Rhyl people are recalling the fate of the old Pier Pavilion, which stood for ten years and then disappeared in an hour early in the morning of Saturday, September 14th. 1901.  That building had cost £3,000, and it was all of timber excepting the steel framework and a chimney stack.  The Palace Theatre and Arcade were hurriedly built in the spring and summer following the destruction of the Pier Pavilion.  The proprietors had tried variations of programme with greater or less success.”

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One response to “Fire at the Queen’s

  1. Pingback: Day 184 -The Mystery that Lies Beneath Rhyl Prompt | marielightmanpromptresponse

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