Fire at Amesbury

Lightning strikes one of Ashfield’s heritage landmarks.

Tuesday 1st December

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.

The fire in the tower at Amesbury viewed from Charlotte Street.
The tower ablaze seen from Alt Street.
The damage to the tower was 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

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 in 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.

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