Fire at Amesbury

Good News at Amesbury

Good News

On 1/12/20 at around 8:15pm lightning struck the tower of Amesbury, one of Ashfield’s most significant historic houses. A DA to re-construct the copper-clad spire and repair damage to timbers, brickwork and the terracotta panels was submitted to Council on 16 March 2021.

The DA can be found on the Inner West Council’s Website … https://innerwest.t1cloud.com/T1Default/CiAnywhere/Web/INNERWEST/Compliance/ApplicationPortalMyMaintenance?f=%24P1.COM.APPLNDAT.MNT&h=A9A9xj7fMq&t=1105E286&suite=PR&pagekey=20210323161351

The following text has been taken from documents attached in the DA. Essentially it means that this wonderful building will be restored to a better condition than it was before the lightning strike in December. Well done to the owners and the Insurance Company.

RESTORATION WORKS OF EXISTING FIRED DAMAGED TURRET/ SPIRE STRUCTURE AT 78 ALT STREET, ASHFIELD NSW 2131

EXTENT OF DAMAGE:

  1. Due to the extent of fire damage, the timber framed spire at the top of the turret was demolished during the make-safe works.
  2. Localised damage to the masonry parapet arch brickwork has occurred which will require localised relaying of brickwork and re-pointing, however the masonry parapets have been salvaged as per the make-safe works completed. The existing masonry arch parapets have been laterally braced as a part of the make-safe scope of works.  
  3. The timber framed spire structure will require replacement with steel / timber framed structure, including associated rolled copper roof sheeting, decorative spires, and decorative timber framed window / lookout points.

The proposal is for the reconstruction and repair of the turret / spire structure on a ‘like for like’ basis, and to match original finishes and geometries.

Lightning strikes one of Ashfield’s heritage landmarks.

Tuesday 1st December 2020.

Around 8:15pm on Tuesday 1st December 2020, lightning struck the tower of Amesbury, one of Ashfield’s most significant historic houses. Amesbury is a grand 10-bedroom Queen Anne style mansion built in 1888 by Mr Norman Selfe (1839-1922), one of Australia’s foremost engineers during the late 19th and into the 20th century.

These dramatic pictures were taken from video shown on the internet. There were numerous lightning strikes from a thunderstorm that passed over Ashfield and one of them was a direct hit on the tower.

The copper roof and its timber framework at the very top the four-storey Romanesque tower were extensively damaged by the fire. Fortunately, the damage appears to be limited to the top of the tower and the beautiful masonry remains intact.

A large number of firefighters were deployed and thankfully they confined the fire. The efforts of the firefighters, together with the pouring rain, prevented the fire spreading and causing further damage to this heritage listed house.

Police blocked off Charlotte Street, Alt Street and Taringa Street making it difficult to get closer than 50 metres to the house on Wednesday morning. Even from that distance the extent of the damage to the roof of the tower could be clearly observed.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before the tower at Amesbury can be restored to its former glory.

Ashfield-History-No-14

More information about Amesbury and Norman Self can be found in Ashfield History No 14 Where Amesbury features on the cover.

The fire in the tower at Amesbury viewed from Charlotte Street.
The tower ablaze seen from Alt Street.
The damage to the tower appears to have been confined to the very top.
The damage to the tower viewed from Alt Street.
Amesbury in all its glory, viewed from Taringa Street Community Garden in 2018.
Friday 5th December 2020.

Today Alt Street and Charlotte Street Ashfield were blocked of and scaffolding was being erected around the tower at Amesbury. It was wonderful to see something being done to the tower so quickly. This was probably because the roof of the tower was so seriously damaged, as the photographs show, that it posed a real risk of causing further damage or injury in high winds that could have blown some of the roofing materials onto the street or into neighbouring properties.

Work on the scaffolding around the tower commenced.
The damage to the tower is clearly visible.
Monday 7th December 2020.

The scaffolding continues to rise around the tower, concealing the damage to some extent. The streets are still blocked off and there were a group of people in ‘hi-vis’ having a discussion beside the scaffolding.

It is still possible to see the damage to the top of the tower It is leaning to the south.

The scaffolding cintinued to be erected over the weekend.
Thursday 10th December 2020.

The scaffolding has been completed and now the tower is being shrouded in a mesh to ensure that small items of debris pose no further risk. The damage to the roof/top of the tower is just visible above the mesh.

Sunday 13th December 2020.

The scaffolding and the mesh are now complete and its purpose is now patently clear. The scaffolding and the mesh have allowed the workers to safely remove the damaged part of the roof above the masonry.

Alt Street and Charlotte Street will be closed untill the 17th December.

It is still possible for pedestrians to walk along Alt Street to see the massive effort currently being made to make the tower safe and hopefully to commence the restoration work. This is a rare moment in time to observe the restoration of Amesbury Tower. In itself, this is something to be observed as this wonderful aspect of the heritage of Ashfield is restored.

The damaged roof appears to have been removed.
Alt Street closed till 17th December.
Monday 21st December 2020.

The roadblocks in Alt Street and Charlotte Street have been removed and it is now possible to get close to Amesbury. This doesn’t really provide any greater insight as the tower is still surrounded by scaffolding and heavy mesh.

A conversation with two of the workers revealed that the roof structure and the copper sheathing on the roof has been removed. The workers had been employed to assist with the ‘clean-up’. The efforts to extinguish the fire in the roof have resulted in some water damage. There has also been a lot of ash transported into the tower and other parts of Amesbury. A strong smell of fire also permeates the house and the workers were also employed to eliminate the smell.

Work seems to progressing quickly.

Friday 12th February 2021.

Very little appears to be happeninf from outside but the building is screened by the scaffolding and the mesh.

The Tower viewed from Alst Street to the north of Amesbury.
The view from Charlotte Street.
Viewed from Alt Street south of Amesbury.