Protecting Heritage Buildings from Fire

October 19th, 2016

Lessons to learn from Cosgrove Hall

I recently read a BBC news article announcing the tragic news that Cosgrove Hall, an 18th Century limestone mansion house near Milton Keynes had been reduced to a brick shell following a fire which broke out on 7th October. A private residence, not open to the public, the owners of Cosgrave Hall will no doubt be mourning this loss, and the valuable and irreplaceable antiquities contained within, not to mention the loss of all of their own personal possessions.

At the time of writing this article, the cause of the blaze is still unknown, and Tecserv is in no way insinuating that Cosgrove Hall had inadequate fire alarm protection. However, this and other examples, such as the fire that was started deliberately at Wythenshaw Hall, a Tudor mansion in Manchester, reminded me of the very fine balance those responsible for protecting our heritage buildings face when specifying the right fire alarm system for their property.

Our work with English Heritage and National Trust has given us first-hand experience of the dilemma’s that are faced. Of course, there are legal requirements that must be met, and the safety of people is always foremost in the planning of fire protection, but beyond that, getting the balance of protecting the authenticity of the building and ensuring its contents are protected should a fire break out can be a very fine line.

Many of these beautiful buildings feature ornate ceilings, architrave and decorative coving and wall coverings. Sometimes the ceilings feature artistry and gold leaf, and naturally there is resistance when it is suggested the view of such features has to involve a perhaps somewhat unsightly smoke detection device, control panel or electrical wiring in a building that pre dates electric lighting.

wythenshawe-hall-photo-courtesy-twitter-and-manchester-fire-rescue-service

Wythenshawe Hall photo courtesy of twitter and Manchester fire rescue service