29th March 1899
Theatre Royal and Opera House burns down
Jersey Opera House was built in 1922 to the design of an earlier building, constructed in 1900. However, even that wasn’t the island’s first such institution.
The first Theatre Royal burned to the ground in 1863 but was rebuilt over the next two years. In 1869, its successor was renamed the Theatre Royal and Opera House, but it lasted just 30 years before suffering a similar fate. The fire broke out at around 2:30am, and just 40 minutes later had burned through enough of the structure to bring down the roof.
Two neighbouring properties were damaged, and the cost of repairs was put at £15,000.
Almost as soon as the flames were extinguished, plans were made for its replacement, and the following summer, Lillie Langtry officially declared it open. This one didn’t last long: it, too, was destroyed by fire in 1921.
A curious follow-up to the 1899 fire appeared in some regional papers, when members of the Royal Jersey Artillery and Royal Artillery were charged with using the fire as a distraction, allowing them to enter houses close to the burning buildings and throw belongings, including furniture and crockery from their windows.
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