Page last updated at 20:24 GMT, Saturday, 25 October 2008 21:24 UK

Historic villa blaze 'a tragedy'

Garrick's Villa
The building's roof collapsed in the blaze. Picture: Alan Cornwell

A fire which ravaged an historic villa that was once home to Shakespearean actor David Garrick was described as "a tragedy" by English Heritage.

The Grade I listed Garrick's Villa in south-west London was badly damaged in the blaze, which was attended by 70 firefighters.

The remodelled medieval building was converted into apartments in 1969.

English Heritage said its structural engineers would assess the damage as soon as it was safe.

The entire roof of the villa in Hampton Court Road collapsed in the fire.

A fire brigade spokesman said the first and second floors of the building caught light during the blaze, which took more than five hours to bring under control.

All occupants were evacuated and no injuries were reported. Witnesses said building work had been taking place at the property.

English Heritage's London director Paddy Pugh said it would work with the owner to restore the building.

"The Grade One listed building Garrick's Villa was of national importance.

"The fire which took place there is a tragedy."

location of Garrick's Villa

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

He acquired the villa in 1754 as his country retreat and it still retained some of the features the actor installed.

One of the residents, antiques dealer Boudica Scherazade, said: "It's just so awful. There's so many valuable things in there.

"This is my home that I've built for my mother and for myself and for our family. We've lost everything, we've lost everything - I'm absolutely devastated".

Twickenham Museum history centre spokesman Mike Cherry said the villa was "an iconic building" whose importance "couldn't be understated".

"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 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

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

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