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One Of England's Oldest Hotels Is Collapsing After A Massive Fire

A huge fire started in the centre of the historic city of Exeter in south-west England on Friday morning.

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A massive fire in Exeter has destroyed one of England's oldest hotels.

Ben Birchall / PA Wire/PA Images

The fire is believed to have broken out early on Friday morning in a building on Cathedral Green, spreading to the Clarence Hotel before it was brought partly under control by Devon and Somerset fire-fighters.

The hotel, in the south-western city of Exeter, had stood for more than 300 years and was regarded as the "heart" of not only the "medieval city, but within the precincts of Roman Exeter," according to local historian Todd Gray.

Gas mains now shut off at Royal Clarence hotel and firefighters attempting to put out remaining blaze.…

Fire-fighters were still on the scene Saturday morning, as they dealt with the remainder of the blaze.

At the fire's height, Somerset and Devon fire and rescue service said more than 150 fire-fighters tackled the flames, assisted by four aerial ladder platforms pumping water from the nearby Exe river.

The view from home as we wake. Day 2 #exeterfire

Over 24 hours later, Exeter cathedral green is still burning. The hotel is now completely destroyed 😢

Savage what happening to the royal clarence hotel @ExpressandEcho

“We’re grateful no one has been hurt in this incident but the community has lost a historic building which is a landmark of the city," chief fire officer Lee Howell said.

He continued damage from the fire had been compounded by the construction of the historic buildings, which allowed flames to spread through the shared roof voids before the alarm was raised.

Gas supplies in Exeter have been temporarily turned off, after fire-fighters discovered a broken pipe was fanning the flames.

Flames take further hold of Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter.

Dramatic drone footage taken on Saturday morning by the local police force showed the extent of the damage so far, as fire-fighters continue to bring the final flames under control.

But building control engineers warned the BBC they expected the facade of the building to collapse further.

Devastating images showing only part of the destruction at the #exeterfire. A sad day for the city. @DSFireUpdates…

Exeter Cathedral was also closed on Saturday, a statement on the church's website said. A spokesperson for the cathedral said everyone affected by the fire was in their "thoughts and prayers".

"It's really heartbreaking to see because it's such a magnificent and beautiful building and so much a part of our heritage here in Exeter," the Cathedral's canon Anna Norman-Walker said.

Such a loss to the city of Exeter: mix of two Royal Clarence images, a century apart #exeterfire

The Clarence Hotel was one of the first to be called a hotel in England, rather than the then-traditional inn.

Passengers boarding a coach outside the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter in 1878.
Otto Herschan / Getty Images

Passengers boarding a coach outside the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter in 1878.

Local historian Gray said the ground and first floor were medieval, and the second and third floors were added in the eighteenth century. In 1827 the establishment became the first in England to use the word "hotel" in its name – bucking the traditional use of the word inn.

“What is so particularly heartbreaking about this loss is that these buildings escaped the Blitz of 1942 when so much of Exeter was destroyed,” he said.

The owner of the hotel, Andrew Brownsword Hotels, thanked its "incredible team of staff" for coping with the emergency. The statement continued: "We are immensely grateful for the tremendous efforts made by all the emergency services and especially the fire service, who have worked with such focus and determination throughout the night.

"The support offered by the Mercure Hotel, Exeter City Council and colleagues in Exeter at this difficult time has been overwhelming, and we thank everyone involved for their outstanding efforts and generosity," they said in a statement to the BBC.

Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rose Troup Buchanan at

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