Theatre up in flames

Firemen battle with the blaze at Havant Thicket

THIS WEEK IN 1984: Forest blaze ruins 10 acres of Havant trees

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On this day in 1882, shortly after 4am, PC White was on duty in Lake Road, Portsmouth, when he became aware of smoke and the flicker of flames.

‘By means of the telephone,’ it was reported, ‘the man in charge of the corporation stables was aroused and horses got ready’.

Not long after, Mrs Gillam, of Lake Road, went to her window and saw flames in the top window of the New Prince’s Theatre opposite her house. By 6am the roof was ablaze and soon collapsed. The heat was so fierce that she could no longer bear to stand at her window.

Horse-drawn appliances arrived, closely followed by the steam fire engine, but it was too late to save the theatre.

Hydrants were located and seven jets of water were used to prevent the fire spreading to its neighbours, including the Sultan Tavern next door.

Three urchins, who were sleeping in the theatre yard sheltering among the sandwich boards, had a rude awakening and were taken to safety.

The press commented that this was the third place of entertainment that had been destroyed by fire in the town in the past four years – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.