Managing Fire Risk at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall


In April 1881, Lanhydrock House near Bodmin in Cornwall, caught fire. As a consequence, the then owner Lord Robartes commissioned the architect Richard Coad to refurbish the house as an ‘unpretentious’ family residence incorporating the
latest in Victorian fire prevention solutions.

The most notable of these technologies were 300mm thick concrete ceilings supplied by Dennett and Ingles of London, designed to stop the spread of fire between floors; patent fireproof plaster; structural ironwork to hold these great loads in place; and an internal fire hydrant system drawing on 200,000 gallons of water stored in a reservoir in the High Gardens. Curiously, despite the use of these High Victorian technologies, Lord Robartes did not consider gas lighting or electrical power safe and so built a lamp
room from which paraffin lamps were wicked and primed.

In 2005, 150 years after these measures were installed; the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (FSO) was legislated through Parliament. The FSO places emphasis on a risk-based attitude towards fire assessment, most notably by reducing the possibility
of fire starting in the first place or, in the worst-case scenario of fire being confirmed, by safeguarding life through provision of a safe means of escape and then limiting damage by restricting the spread of fire.

This article shows how we overcame the challenges in implementing a FSO in a heritage setting


About paul holden

Architectural historian working as a House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Lanhydrock House in Cornwall. Author of 'The Lanhydrock Atlas' (Cornwall Editions,2010) and 'The London Letters of Samuel Molyneux, 1712-13' (London Topographical Society, 2011). Contributor to many scholarly journals and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
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