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Fire! Fire! The Theatre’s on Fire: A History of British Theatre Fires

By Rodney Hardcastle

Foreword by Matthew Kelly

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My involvement with the history of theatres suggested that the theme for this book should be the many theatres which have been affected in some way by the destructive force of fire.

Their twice nightly entertainment of wide and varied music hall acts and even performing animals, provided a magical escape in the 1800s and 1900s from people’s arduous working conditions, which were often coupled with their poor and overcrowded housing.

However, there was a danger of fire at these theatres as they were heated and lit by gas, were mainly constructed of wood, and many had inadequate emergency escapes. In all, they were unsuitable for their purpose of entertaining hundreds of people.

It was obvious from my research that many of them were either totally destroyed or badly damaged by fire, on more than one occasion, often leading to the tragic loss of many lives. Thank goodness this resulted in new legislation demanding minimum standards for theatre safety.

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