Hogarth House Gets Off Lightly

Damage to historic house 'heartbreaking' but not disastrous

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There is widespread relief following the assessment of the fire at Hogarth House that the damage is far less than was originally feared. Already work is in progress to try and get the historic former residence of William Hogarth open to the public again next year.

The work on refurbishing the house had been making good progress and the plan had been to have a grand reopening on the artist's birthday in November. Although the damage is such that this is no longer possible, there will be little lasting impact as the valuable documents, prints and furniture normally kept at the museum were in storage.

Val Bott, who is chairing the steering group for the project, said, "Everyone involved is heart broken, but we all agreed that it could have been so much worse - the firemen got there just in time to prevent it from spreading throughout the House and we are very grateful for this. The most important thing is that no-one was hurt, but we are also very relieved that none of the rare Hogarth prints, or other works of art, and none of the furniture or equipment had yet been moved back into the House."

Fire officers believe the fire started due to an electrical fault. They arrived on the scene early as the alarm had gone off before there was any visible sign of a fire thus limiting the damage done.

Val added, "The conservation work had been done to a very high standard and the House was looking beautiful so it is a good thing that the main damage is confined to the dining room. Some panelling there has been lost from around the switch cupboard under the stairs where the fire started. There is a hole in the floor through to the cellar, a hole in the staircase and several holes in the floor of the room above. The paintwork is ruined, much of the ceiling plaster has fallen in, the light fittings have melted and the whole room is very wet."

Officers from Laings, Hounslow Council and the William Hogarth Trust were on scene soon after the fire and everything is being done to make it possible to repair the damage and get the House open again. The steering group admit there is a lot to do and funding to sort out, but everyone is determined that it will reopen next year.

This will unfortunately mean that the planned reopening on Hogarth's birthday in November will not take place.

August 19, 2009