28.10.16 Exeter fire: Royal Clarence Hotel collapses in blaze.


The hotel has been destroyed by the huge fire that continued to burn after more than 24 hours.

The front of the Royal Clarence, described as England's oldest hotel, has partially fallen away due to the blaze in Exeter, Devon.

The fire broke out at about 05:00 on Friday 28.10.16 in buildings on Cathedral Green before spreading to the hotel, which dates back to 1769.

The gas supply was turned off after a ruptured main fuelled the fire.  Police brought in a drone to assess the structure of the building and structural engineers expect the facade of the hotel to crumble further.

The fire spread into the Laura Ashley store on the High Street but that was contained.

Services and a concert at Exeter Cathedral were cancelled and there was an overwhelming sense of sadness in the city.

The fire broke out above the Castle Fine Art gallery where renovation work was under way, before spreading to the Well House Tavern, a cafe and the Royal Clarence Hotel.

A spokesman for the fire service said the gallery and hotel had been destroyed by the blaze, but that the cause of the fire was unknown.

Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: "We're grateful no one has been hurt in this incident but the community has lost an historic building which is a landmark of the city.

"We kept significant resources at the scene to ensure we were able to deal with every eventuality and we will continue to do everything we can to protect the heritage of this city."

Hotel owners, Andrew Brownsword Hotels stated that they were immensely grateful for the tremendous efforts made by all the emergency services and especially the fire service, who have worked with such focus and determination.  They further stated that the support offered by the Mercure Hotel, Exeter City Council and colleagues in Exeter at this difficult time has been overwhelming.

The group thanked its own "incredible team of staff" who behaved with "positivity and professionalism" in managing the situation.

Guests were evacuated from their rooms in the middle of the night to the nearby Mercure. There were no reported casualties.

Building control engineers told the BBC that the facade of the historic hotel was expected to crumble away.

Fire fighters used water from the River Exe hundreds of metres away to help extinguish the blaze.

The Bishop of Exeter, Robert Atwell, said: "When people think of bombing during World War Two they only think of London or Coventry, but Exeter was also bombed very heavily.

"Lots of our medieval buildings in Exeter were destroyed, but the one that didn't was the wonderful old Royal Clarence Hotel.

"To see this ancient building go up in smoke is so sad."

The 287-year-old Royal Clarence Hotel will have to be demolished following the blaze – but today the owners vowed it will rise again from the ashes.

Story collated by Liz Turnbull.

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Registered Office:  Southwold House, 66 Botley Road, Park Gate, Southampton, United Kingdom

Company number: 07810000