Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Museum archives destroyed in fire

Damage at the museum - Photo: Rob ward
The fire destroyed many historical records at the Dean Heritage Centre

A number of irreplaceable items have been destroyed in a fire at a museum in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire.

Crews were called to the Dean Heritage Centre in Soudley at about 0500 GMT to tackle the blaze, which is thought to have started in the roof.

The brigade also sent a unit from Stroud to pump water out to reduce the chances of further damage to the structure.

Artefacts stored on the lower floors are not believed to be damaged.

Coal industry

Viv Hargreaves, who witnessed the fire, said the roof was well alight by 0500 GMT.

She said: "Firemen had huge problems smashing into the building because there are bars on the windows due to so many burglaries.

"They had to use equipment they would normally use on a road accident to cut through the bars to get into the building this morning."

Fire damaged item at Dean Heritage Centre
Some items of historic costume were burned to a crisp

The fire brigade do not believe the blaze was started deliberately, but think an electrical fault may have been responsible.

The museum's collection officer Nicola Wynn said the boxes the archives were stored in protected many of the items in the fire-damaged areas.

"It is not quite as bad as we feared. When we first came in, we were horrified," she said.

Among the items stored in the upper floors were unique mining equipment and records of the Forest's coal industry, as well as rare books and historic costumes.

The museum is shut and its popular Santa's grotto attraction is also closed.


Fire damage at Dean Heritage Centre

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In pictures: Heritage Centre fire
17 Dec 09 |  People and Places

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