15.3.16 Arson suspected after fire wrecks Manchester's Wythenshawe Hall


Police investigating cause of blaze after more than 50 fire fighters battle to save roof and clock tower of Tudor mansion

Police in Manchester suspect that a fire that devastated a Tudor mansion may have been started deliberately.

At its peak more than 50 fire fighters using 10 appliances and an aerial platform battled the blaze at Wythenshawe Hall in south Manchester.  The flames badly damaged the 16th-century building’s clock tower and its roof after fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday 15th March 2016, Manchester fire and rescue service said.

Inspector Luke Breakspear of Greater Manchester police said: “The investigation into how this fire began is in its infancy, however we are now treating it as suspicious.

“We are appealing for anyone who may have any information or may have seen anyone in the area in the early hours of this morning to come forward.

 “This is a devastating fire in a beautiful building and we are determined to get to the bottom of how this could have happened.

“Luckily, no one was injured, but the damage to the building and its contents will have a lasting impact on the community, and those who dedicated their lives to Wythenshawe Hall.”

Warren Pickstone, a fire service area manager, said: “This blaze has caused devastating damage to a historic building, but the quick actions of our crew have saved the majority of the structure.

“The fire was well developed when they arrived and fire fighters did a fantastic job to stop it spreading through the timbers and voids in the property.  We will work closely with Manchester city council and the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall to help them recover from this terrible fire.”

Mr Pickstone said earlier the roof and first floor had been “lost” after the fire erupted at about 3.30am.

Rosa Battle, a Manchester city councillor, praised the fire fighters and said: “This is an upsetting incident involving a much-loved historic building at the heart of its community.

“We are still taking stock of the damage but will all need to rally together in an effort to restore the hall.”

Detectives in Manchester say the devastating fire at the 16th-century Tudor mansion was started deliberately and have issued a fresh appeal for witnesses.

Inspector Luke Breakspear of Greater Manchester police stated: In the early hours of Tuesday morning, a person or persons came to Wythenshawe Hall and we believe set the building alight. What I can tell you is that individuals brought items with them and set them alight to bring the building down.  Luckily they didn’t succeed in burning the whole of the building.

The fire was started at about 3.30am on Tuesday morning 15th March 2016 and took more than 50 fire fighters more than a day to put out.  Aerial platforms and over 10 fire engines were used to fight the blaze in south Manchester, which was already well developed when fire fighters arrived at the scene.

Warren Pickstone of Greater Manchester fire and rescue services said: “The fire fighters worked extremely hard under hard conditions, and managed to save quite a large part of the building.

“It looks worse from the outside but many of the rooms have been saved. This building will come back again and it will be fully functioning.  I think the fire fighters did a good job and hopefully now the friends of Wythenshawe Hall can work together with the public and actually get this building back into a useable state.”

Cllr Sue Colley, a local resident, said: “This hall has been the backdrop to my life and to the lives of many people in Wythenshawe and people are devastated.

“Thankfully there has been an upsurge of warmth and love and generosity from Wythenshawe people, Manchester people and even from as far afield as Canada and Australia in response to the awful thing that has happened here.

“There is a determination that this iconic building, although its damaged, will not be destroyed, and will be repaired and restored as soon as humanly possible.”

The building, built in 1540, suffered extensive damage to the bell tower, roof, first floor and timber beams. The 16th-century hall was owned by the Tatton family for hundreds of years before being given to Manchester city council in 1929.

The building was a gallery and museum until 2010 when it was taken over by the Friends of Wythenshawe Hall.  Richard Jackson, the chairman, is also a descendant of the Tatton family.  Jackson was on holiday in Tenerife when he was called with news of the fire.

“I was helpless.  I had to watch it burn.  I’m worried about some of the rooms upstairs that are unique to this house,” he said. “We’ve worked very hard as a group to bring to life this house, which was really an empty shell when we first came here.  We have fitted it out with replica furniture and paintings; we have put a great deal of work in.”

Story collated by Liz Turnbull.

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