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The fire at Windsor Castle

The fire at Windsor Castle

The fire at Windsor Castle PA

On 20 November 1992 a fire broke out in Windsor Castle. It destroyed 115 rooms, including nine State Rooms.

How the fire started

The fire started in Queen Victoria's Private Chapel, where a faulty spotlight ignited a curtain next to the altar. Within minutes the blaze was unstoppable and had spread to St George's Hall next door. The fire was first spotted around 11:30 in the morning and within three hours 225 firefighters from seven counties were battling the flames. At the peak of the operation they were using 36 pumps, discharging 1½ million gallons of water.

St George's Hall immediately after the fire

St George's Hall immediately after the fire ©

Evacuating the works of art

Fortunately the fire break at the other end of St George's Hall remained unbreached, so the Royal Library was undamaged. Meanwhile staff were removing works of art from the Royal Collection from the path of the fire. The Castle's Quadrangle was full of some of the finest examples of French 18th-century furniture, paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Gainsborough, Sèvres porcelain and other treasures of the Collection.

Amazingly, only two works of art were lost in the fire - a rosewood sideboard and a very large painting by Sir William Beechey that couldn't be taken down from the wall in time. Luckily works of art had already been removed from many rooms in advance of rewiring work.

St George's Hall after restoration

St George's Hall after restoration ©

Restoration

The fire was finally extinguished at 2:30am on Saturday, 21 November, but it had burned for 15 hours. The next step was the huge restoration task to restore the Castle back to its former glory. There were several different options for the Restoration Committee, chaired by The Duke of Edinburgh, to consider. Should the Castle be restored to its appearance on 19 November 1992, the day before the terrible fire or should a new approach be taken? 

A combination approach was taken with a new room called The Lantern Lobby created in the space where the private chapel had previously stood and where the fire had started. This created a formal passageway between the private and State Apartments. St George's Hall was restored to a design close to the room's original 14th-century appearance, but with a 20th-century reinterpretation. A new hammer-beam roof was constructed from sustainable English oak using traditional methods and tools. 

The Grand Reception Room before and after restoration.

The Grand Reception Room before and after restoration. ©

Finishing the restoration

The official completion date for the restoration project was 20 November 1997, 5 years to the day after the outbreak of the fire and the 50th wedding anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.