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Denmark place fire

16th August 1980 a fire broke out at two nightclubs known as the Spanish rooms in Denmark place (tin pan alley) and 37 people lost their lives.
My cousin was one of them, she was just 18 years old.
The fire was as a result of a drunken clubber being thrown out of the club who then came back with a can of petrol and poured it through the letterbox before striking a match.
He rightly received life imprisonment.
My first question to you all is do any of you remember the incident?
There is so little info on the Web about it.
and secondly did any of you ever go there?

I'm in touch with a reporter and a lady who used to go there all the time snd lost several friends that night and between them would like to get some sort if memorial to those that perished

if anyone has anything they could add please let me know

cheers

Comments

  • Don't recall this at all creepy what a terrible thing to do.
  • That's the thing Dave, the worst fire disaster since the war and no one's heard of it! There was 6 more deaths than kings cross but because they were unlicensed clubs nothing seems to have been reported (weĺl not much)
    http://londonist.com/2012/10/londons-forgotten-disasters-the-denmark-street-fire.php
  • edited July 2015
    Your link didn't work creepy, so adding this one (hoping it does!)

    http://londonist.com/2012/10/londons-forgotten-disasters-the-denmark-street-fire.php
  • Absolutely shocking. I can't remember ever having heard of it, but will continue to wrack my brains.

    Condolences to you on the loss of your cousin.
  • Thanks SA

    Thanks Chizz, it was a long time ago and I was only 13 and really only vaguely remember her which is sad, I was just wondering if anyone had been there and to try to imagine what it was like. There was a big south american following hence the nickname the spanish rooms but a lot of them were illegal immigrants and of those that did survive not a lot of people were very forthcoming! The in place for salsa dancing apparently!

    Also as they were unlicensed they had no reason for safety certs etc
  • Thanks pops, i can't listen to the audio as you need a log in but thank you anyway
  • Had never heard of this. Would have been 9 but still remember New Cross fire of 81.
  • Yep, remember the new cross one as it was everywhere over the news that's what makes this one so strange
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  • Think there was a lot of racial motives being spouted about the new cross fire at first but they decided Fire was accidently started in a bedroom I think rather than arson attack
  • Another reference on Christopher Fowler's blog site (http://www.christopherfowler.co.uk/blog/2013/03/14/londons-other-clubland/) where he says;
    I remember being very shocked because I’d been in there a few nights before (and hated it). The problem was long bench seats that were hard to slide out of, so nobody would have escaped easily. The whole of Soho believed it had been the latest in the Maltese turf war of the times…
  • Below is my training notes on the fire. Because it was a 'Private Club' there were no prosecutions with regard to breach of fire safety laws at the time - none of the so called regulators were prepared to take responsibility.

    I'm sure I've got a copy of the coroners report somewhere - I'll try and dig them out.

    This Month In 1980 37 dead and no memorial Barely 100 metres from Oxford Street a fire took the lives of 37 people on 15th August 1980 in a nightclub on Denmark Street in Soho. It was London’s deadliest fire since the blitz in the Second World War.

    Denmark Street is referred to as Tin Pan Alley because of its long association with the world of music. Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones recorded there, the Sex Pistols lived there, it is where Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’ and Lionel Bart wrote Oliver!

    In 1980 the area was renowned for illegal gambling and drinking clubs. Many of them were frequented by South American and Spanish illegal immigrants. On 15th August a farewell party was being held at one of the clubs. During one of them John hompson, a small time thief and drug addict, was ejected for fighting and arguing with a barman. The front door was locked behind him.
    Enraged by his treatment he went to a service station and bought a can of petrol. He returned to the nightclub, poured the petrol through the letter box and set fire to it.

    The door was, of course, still locked and unusable as an escape route. But it is one that patrons instinctively headed for. The fire spread through the building with ferocious speed, filling it with thick, acrid smoke. The staircase and entire building was aflame in a matter of seconds. Other escape routes were blocked by locked doors. The guest of honour at the party was able to jump out of a second floor window. The first 999 call to the fire service gave an incorrect address. When firefighters battled their way into the building they found some of the victims still seated at tables. Others were by the bar with drinks still in their hands. The speed with which the fire spread outstripped their ability to flee.


    The illegal clubs on the street were scheduled for closure by the authorities just two days later. It is not known how many people were in the building when the fire started. Some managed to escape but did not hang around because they did not want to attract the attention of the authorities. It is assumed that because the majority of the victims were illegal immigrants the fire has become a forgotten footnote in the history of London. There is not even a memorial to be found to commemorate the disaster.

    Initially, London police suspected the fire may have been tied to a dispute between drug gangs or, in a strange twist, feuding hot dog vendors as hot dog carts were stored in a room in the club. The perpetrator, John Thompson was arrested, tried and convicted. In 1981 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Im sorry for your loss; I've never heard about it though. Sounds awful.

    I'm wondering if this was the only one though?
    Addickted said:

    Below is my training notes on the fire. Because it was a 'Private Club' there were no prosecutions with regard to breach of fire safety laws at the time - none of the so called regulators were prepared to take responsibility.

    I'm sure I've got a copy of the coroners report somewhere - I'll try and dig them out.

    This Month In 1980 37 dead and no memorial Barely 100 metres from Oxford Street a fire took the lives of 37 people on 15th August 1980 in a nightclub on Denmark Street in Soho. It was London’s deadliest fire since the blitz in the Second World War.

    Denmark Street is referred to as Tin Pan Alley because of its long association with the world of music. Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones recorded there, the Sex Pistols lived there, it is where Elton John wrote ‘Your Song’ and Lionel Bart wrote Oliver!

    In 1980 the area was renowned for illegal gambling and drinking clubs. Many of them were frequented by South American and Spanish illegal immigrants. On 15th August a farewell party was being held at one of the clubs. During one of them John hompson, a small time thief and drug addict, was ejected for fighting and arguing with a barman. The front door was locked behind him.
    Enraged by his treatment he went to a service station and bought a can of petrol. He returned to the nightclub, poured the petrol through the letter box and set fire to it.

    The door was, of course, still locked and unusable as an escape route. But it is one that patrons instinctively headed for. The fire spread through the building with ferocious speed, filling it with thick, acrid smoke. The staircase and entire building was aflame in a matter of seconds. Other escape routes were blocked by locked doors. The guest of honour at the party was able to jump out of a second floor window. The first 999 call to the fire service gave an incorrect address. When firefighters battled their way into the building they found some of the victims still seated at tables. Others were by the bar with drinks still in their hands. The speed with which the fire spread outstripped their ability to flee.


    The illegal clubs on the street were scheduled for closure by the authorities just two days later. It is not known how many people were in the building when the fire started. Some managed to escape but did not hang around because they did not want to attract the attention of the authorities. It is assumed that because the majority of the victims were illegal immigrants the fire has become a forgotten footnote in the history of London. There is not even a memorial to be found to commemorate the disaster.

    Initially, London police suspected the fire may have been tied to a dispute between drug gangs or, in a strange twist, feuding hot dog vendors as hot dog carts were stored in a room in the club. The perpetrator, John Thompson was arrested, tried and convicted. In 1981 he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

    I just thought I'd clarify my like on this post; it's not that I liked the content but that it was very informative.

    As someone who was nowhere near to being born at that time, it paints a pretty graphic picture as well as explains the potential reasoning.

    The thought of this happening is truly terrifying.
  • Addickted, were they your training notes?

    Lucky reds I heard that this area is now earmarked to be demolished for the new crossrail system. I wonder if there are still any private clubs that need no safety certs!
  • MrOneLung said:

    Had never heard of this. Would have been 9 but still remember New Cross fire of 81.

    My brother went on that job from Lakedale Road - Red Watch.

  • Addickted, were they your training notes?

    Lucky reds I heard that this area is now earmarked to be demolished for the new crossrail system. I wonder if there are still any private clubs that need no safety certs!

    Yes - part of the FPAs European Diploma, looking at examples of fatal fires around the World - to be honest, they are mainly news reports, but fascinating none the less.

    Fire Legislation has changed dramatically since 2005, with the myriad of legislation being pulled into one reform order - which includes private member clubs.
  • At least thats something addickted! Poplcon put a link on earlier (london fire journal) that has lots of incidents on there in London but there are links to oghers worldwide too, are you in the fire service addickted?
  • Im currently reading forensics book which has a chapter on Denmark place. I've not got that far yet... If you are interested I could post you the book once I've finished with it?
  • Thx mcbobbin that's a very kind offer what book is it? I've been contacted by a guardian journo too this week who wants to do a story on it and the reasons why it was never in the news etc
    He is away til 5th August so should have some news soon
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  • It's called murder under the microscope the history of Scotland Yard forensic laboratory. This onehttp://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0751503851?ie=UTF8&at=&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links pretty interesting
  • Nice one McB, let me know if theres any new info in there cheers!
  • I've copied the relevant pages from the book... Please pm me your email and I'll send them, or I can post here (but I'd rather not)
  • Just seen this article in The Independent

    I think you'll be aware of it, @creepyaddick
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