Museum Safe But Priddy's Hard Warehouse May Collapse After Fire

By David Prudames | 27 July 2004
Shows a photograph of a vast column of smoke rising from a brick warehouse at the end of a short road. There are vehicles parked in front of it.

Photo: according to a spokesperson from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, the black smoke was caused by 7,000 wheelie bins stored in the 150-year-old warehouse. © BBC South.

A fire that broke out at Priddy's Hard, Gosport in the early hours of July 27 may cause a 150-year-old warehouse to collapse.

Firefighters were called to the former Royal Navy armaments depot just after six in the morning, where the fire gave off a black column of smoke that reports suggest had drifted as far away as the Isle of Wight.

While the future of the warehouse is uncertain, the fire has not caused any damage to nearby Explosion! The Museum of Naval Fire Power.

"We are completely safe," Museum Director Bill Sainsbury told the 24 Hour Museum, "it’s one of the buildings that was part of the Priddy’s Hard Depot, but it is outside our allotted area."

"We have stored stuff in there in the past but we have cleared it out. Obviously it’s very upsetting," added Bill.

"We are closed today, because there are a lot of services here and it’s difficult to get through, but we are back open again tomorrow."

Photo: Priddy's Hard was once the Royal Navy's main armament depot. Photo: Jon Pratty. © 24 Hour Museum.

Priddy's Hard was the Royal Navy's main armament depot from 1771 right up until 1989, just after the Falklands War.

The site grew from a core of explosives magazines, buildings and gunpowder loading wharfs until it eventually covered 100 acres.

At the height of the Second World War there were up to 4000 workers keeping the men at the front supplied with all kinds of ammunition and armaments.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to the site at 13 minutes past six to attend to the fire, which has almost certainly destroyed 7,000 council-owned wheelie bins stored in the warehouse.

The bins were moved there after a suspected arson attack on a previous store. Police are currently investigating a fire on July 18 at an open air compound where the bins, worth £14,000, were being kept.

Speaking at 11.00am spokesperson Mike Gates told the 24 Hour Museum how the fire had probably burned so dramatically due to stores of paint and other materials, but that it is now under control.

Shows a photograph of a column of black smoke rising from a group of buildings across a body of water.

Photo: the column of smoke could be seen as far away as the Isle of Wight. © BBC South.

"The fire is virtually, but not completely, out," he said, "we have what amounts to a bonfire."

Concern over the chances of the warehouse, which has been submitted to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for listing, collapsing, led fire crews to spray water on the blaze from an elevated platform.

"The problem is that we have a 150 plus year-old building that’s had a huge fire and we are not too confident as to how structurally safe it is."

Despite not being able to comment on the likelihood of its collapse, Mike added that officers in charge are very concerned: "You can see there are huge splits in the brick and mortar work," he said, "it doesn’t look too clever."

Fire investigation officers are now waiting to enter the building to try to ascertain how it was started.

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