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Last updated: April 14, 2012 12:05 am
The tea clipper Cutty Sark, devastated by fire in 2007, re-opens to the public on April 26 after a £50m restoration. Here’s our pick of five fire-damaged, now beautifully restored, glories of Britain.
1. Cutty Sark, Greenwich (reopened 2012)
One of the most famous ships in the world, Cutty Sark, launched in 1869, is the last surviving tea clipper. She was the fastest boat of her time, sailing to China and back and then on the Sydney to London wool route. Originally saved for the nation in the 1950s, after a public appeal by the Duke of Edinburgh, she went into dry dock in Greenwich but by 2000 was slowly collapsing. An ambitious restoration project had just begun when a fire, caused by workers’ electrical equipment, struck in May 2007. When she re-opens this month, Cutty Sark will have extra exhibition space, and the world’s largest collection of figureheads.
2. Gwyn Hall, Glamorgan (reopened 2012)
The listed 1887 Gwyn Hall, a theatre in the Welsh town of Neath, near Swansea, was nearing the end of a £4m renovation project when it was gutted by fire in October 2007, leaving little more than a shell. A £10m restoration has recreated the original Victorian exterior, with a modern theatre, cinema and café inside. Opened last month, the revived Gwyn Hall is now the focal point of plans to regenerate Neath.
3. Windsor Castle, Berkshire (reopened 1997)
The largest inhabited castle in the world, and the one in longest continuous occupation (more than 900 years), came close to disaster in November 1992 when a spotlight set fire to curtains. It took 15 hours to extinguish the fire, which had spread to more than 100 rooms. The enormous £37m repair bill was partly funded by the Queen. Many rooms were restored as they were, while others got a more modern look. The castle re-opened in 1997.
4. Uppark, West Sussex (reopened 1995)
A devastating fire in August 1989 – caused by a workman’s blowtorch – had scarcely been extinguished before arguments began over whether or not to restore this 18th-century National Trust property. It was decided that enough remained to go ahead, as the basement and most of the ground floor were intact, and the house contents from the lower floors had been carried to safety. Uppark was restored as it had been just before the fire, and reopened in 1995.
5. Alexandra Palace, London (reopened 1988)
Designed to rival the Crystal Palace in Sydenham (itself destroyed by fire in 1936), Ally Pally opened in 1873, only to burn down two weeks later. Reopened in 1875, it became home to the BBC’s new television service in 1936. In 1980, it was hit by another large fire, which started near the palace’s huge Willis organ. Just under half the building was damaged and did not reopen until 1988. Ally Pally is now a venue for exhibitions, conferences and concerts.
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