Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Saturday, 25 October 2008 17:18 UK

Blaze hits actor's historic home

Garrick's Villa
The building's roof collapsed in the blaze. Picture: Justin Crowther

A historic building that was once home to Shakespearean actor David Garrick has caught fire in south-west London.

The entire roof of the Grade I listed Garrick's Villa in Hampton Court Road collapsed in the fire, which began at about 1129 BST.

Seventy firefighters tackled the fire at its height but no injuries were reported. Witnesses said building work had been taking place at the property.

Transport for London has put bus diversions in place around the area.

The building's roof fell through to the second floor in the blaze, and half of its first and second floors also caught fire, a fire brigade spokesman said.

Harry Lansdale, a barman at the nearby Kings Arms pub, said police cordoned off the area.

"The whole road is gridlocked," he said. "I've seen loads and loads of police and fire engines driving towards it."

location of Garrick's Villa

He added: "There's loads of smoke everywhere. The police have blocked the road. No-one can get through."

David Garrick is regarded as one of Britain's greatest actors, and the founding father of the "realist" school of acting.

Built in the Middle Ages, the building was acquired by the actor in 1754 as his country retreat.

It was converted into apartments in 1969, retaining some of the features installed by the actor.

Twickenham Museum history centre spokesman Mike Cherry said the Villa was "an iconic building".

"It's hugely significant because of its association with Garrick," Mr Cherry said.

"He is such an important figure in theatre, both in acting itself and theatre management, and the building provided an historical link with the man. The news has come as quite a shock."

Ten fire engines were sent to the scene and all occupants of the building were evacuated.

The "severe" fire was brought under control by 1645 BST on Saturday and firefighters continue to dampen the blaze.

The building's walls are being checked to ensure they are stable and the cause of the fire is being investigated.


Firefighters tackle the blaze at the London villa

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In pictures: Garrick's Villa fire
25 Oct 08 |  In Pictures

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