"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

"Heroes with grimy faces" - Sir Winston Churchill

October 09, 2014

EXETER - 1887

Painting by Fred Ford from collection of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service


On Sept. 5, 1887, a fire at Exter's Theatre Royal killed 168 people.

Gas lighting ignited some gauze backstage on the opening night of a romantic comedy called Romany Rye.

A witness reported:

"Soon after the outbreak the City Fire Brigade were on the spot, but the water they poured on the fire was absolutely without effect."

 The number of exits proved to be inadequate for the audience.

 Only 68 bodies were recovered.

The blaze led to national fire safety reforms.

There were 800 people in the audience and most of the deaths occurred in the upper gallery.

Victims were buried in a mass grave.