East Lulworth

A  Registered One-Place Study and part of the Dorset OPC Network

News - 1929


The Times - Friday, 30 August 1929

Mansion in ruins

Lulworth Castle burned

Art treasures saved

(from our special correspondent)

Wareham, Aug. 29

Lulworth Castle, the residence of Mr. Herbert Weld, an historic 16th-century mansion just west of Purbeck Hills and overlooking the sea between Portland Bill and St. Alban’s Head, has been reduced to a skeleton by fire. The stone exterior, built in the form of a cube, with a circular tower at each angle, and its fine ornamental front, with allegorical statues of music and painting and stone figures of two Romans in uniform, are still standing, pathetic features of the now derelict mansion which has given shelter to kings. Late to-night the fire was still smouldering in the basement of the castle, and it will probably continue to do so for some hours. Members of the Royal Tank Corps are guarding the building.

Ever since the castle was built at the end of the 16th century it has been in the possession of the Weld family. It contained many heirlooms, including portraits by Lely, and valuable furniture, But although the mansion has been gutted, the flames having has a free run owing to lack of water, Mr. Weld told me to-night that he believed most of the important pictures and the old furniture, as well as the books in the library and the plate, had been saved. The canopied bed in the King’s Room, in which King George III. slept, has been destroyed, but what is considered to be the greatest artistic loss is the destruction of the beautifully decorated ceilings of about the year 1770.

The discovery

The castle, which stands in a large park, was of four storeys. On the first floor were the library, drawing-room, and dining-room. Above these were the King’s room and the principal bedrooms. On the top floor, where the fire broke out, were other guests’ rooms and servants quarters.

When the outbreak was discovered shortly after 9 a.m. Mr. Weld joined the servants and estate workpeople in their efforts with the aid of fire extinguishers to prevent the flames from spreading. Workers formed a line up the staircase from the ground floor to the top storey, and buckets of water were passed up and poured on the fire, but the smoke was so dense that Mr. Weld and those with him had to retreat. The fire still appeared to be in one section of the fourth floor. By this time the whole village of Lulworth had been roused and fire brigades summoned from Dorchester, Swanage, Weymouth and Poole. Before their arrival workers on the estate and villagers began to save the contents of the mansion.

The Dorchester brigade was the first to arrive, shortly before 11 o’clock. Mr. A. R. Jeffrey, chief officer of the Dorchester brigade, and firemen wearing smoke helmets made their way to the roof immediately above the fire.  The roof was of lead, and was concealed from view by battlements. With some difficulty a hosepipe was got up and was turned on to the flames through the roof. The fire had still failed to cover the whole of the top floor, and there were hopes that it might be prevented from spreading. Then, at the critical moment, the water ceased to flow. It had been pumped from a large tank in the garden, which soon became exhausted. A supply of water was next obtained from a well a few yards from the mansion. The brigades of Poole, Swanage and Weymouth had now arrived, as well as a sergeant and 14 men of the Royal Tank Corps who are stationed at Lulworth. They, with the villagers, the estate workers, and Girl Guides who were encamped in Lulworth Park, did valuable work in saving the treasures in the building.

The fire was still confined to the top floor, but was burning fiercely, and it was apparent that unless a larger volume of water could be poured on to the flames the buildings were doomed. The salvage workers had been forced to retreat from the third storey, but they continued their work below, and the lawns around the mansion were strewn with old furniture, books, paintings, and other art treasures. Efforts were made to save the King’s Bed before smoke and heat made it impossible to reach the third storey, but without success.

Pipeline to the sea

The supply of water from the well was still being poured on the flames, but this well also became exhausted. Part of the lead roof fell in, and the third floor became ablaze. Two members of the Dorchester fire brigade were slightly injured by molten lead and falling glass. Salvage work was still going on in the lower storeys, but water was now the great need. About two miles from the mansion is Arish Mell Gap, through which the sea can be seen from the terrace of the castle. The sea now appeared to be the only available source of supply, and between the mansion and the coast three fire engines were placed at intervals and a line of pipe was run into the sea, but all attempts to get sea water failed.

The King’s Room and the ballroom on the third floor were now blazing, and there was nothing to prevent the fire spreading. The flames issued from the windows of the circular towers and from all sides of the building. The task of removing the salved treasures from the lawns to buildings on the estate was carried on throughout this afternoon and evening. It was not until about 5 o’clock that the fire burned itself out. To-night there are beams in the building still smouldering, and some of the walls of the castle, owing to the damage they have suffered, have rents which give them a dangerous appearance.

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FIRE.

LULWORTH CASTLE.

THE CONTENTS SALVED, BEING THE PERSONAL PROPERTY OF HERBERT J. WELD, ESQ.,

AND NOW REMOVED TO THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, DORCHESTER.

MESSRS.

H. GOULD & CO., LTD.,

HAVE RECEIVED INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE ASSESSORS ACTING ON BEHALF OF THE INSURANCE COMPANIES CONCERNED

TO SELL BY PUBLIC AUCTION AT THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, DORCHESTER

THE CONTENTS COMPRISING THE

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ON WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH AND 7TH, 1929, COMMENCING AT 11 O’CLOCK A.M. PRECISELY.

ON VIEW MONDAY AND TUESDAY PRIOR TO SALE.

FOR FURTHER PARTICULARS AND CATALOGUES APPLY TO THE AUCTIONEERS:-

Messrs. H. GOULD and CO., LTD., 12, WILSON-STREET, FINSBURY, LONDON, E.C.2.

TELEPHONE BISHOPSGATE 4122


The Times, Saturday 19 October 1929

The Times, Monday 2 September 1929

Lulworth Castle Fire

Renewed outbreak quickly extinguished

Fire broke out again at 9 o’clock on Saturday morning at Lulworth Castle, the Dorset seat of Mr. Herbert Weld, the interior of which was destroyed by fire on Thursday. The renewed outbreak occurred in the part of the castle containing the strong room. The Dorchester fire brigade was called out again, and was able to extinguish the fire in a few minutes.

Lulworth Castle was visited on Saturday by thousands of visitors from Bournemouth, Weymouth, and other parts of Hampshire and Dorset. They were disappointed in finding all the entrances guarded and barred by sentries from the Royal Tank Corps and admission was refused. In many cases visitors climbed over the walls to get a view of the ruined castle, but were soon turned off by soldiers.

Military sentries were also posted to guard the premises containing tapestries, books, and other treasures salved from Thursday’s fire, which are at present stored in the village and in the two village halls. A survey of the castle will, it is expected, be made to-day.


Daily Mirror - Friday, 30 August 1929