Disaster 1916

During the night of Saturday, 2nd December 1916 the theatre was destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was believed to have been due to faulty electric cabling in the roof. The flames spread rapidly and although the Dartford Fire Brigade was first on the scene, closely followed by the Bexleyheath Brigade, there was little they could do but save the entrance hall and offices at the front, and the stage and dressing rooms at the rear. The auditorium and organ were a heap of twisted girders, charred wood and cinders, while the walls were levelled with the ground. Crayford Fire Brigade took no part in the action, their only equipment was a hand drawn cart that carried hoses, standpipes and branches which was stored in a building under the church wall opposite the Rose and Shamrock public house. As a result of their inability to fight the fire the Brigade was equipped with a Napier hose tender in 1917. Within twelve hours of the destruction of the theatre, an order was issued for it to be rebuilt. Princess Helena extended her sympathy and offered to re-open the Theatre when rebuilt. However, it was to be another two and a half years before this happened and it was Prince Albert, not Princess Helena, who performed the ceremony.

(Credit: edited excerpts from A Crayford: A History by Edward O. Thomas)

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