Reference numberMM/3/55
TitleReport by William Rothwell and Robert Farnham, Association of Architects, into the fire at Chavening House, Kent, on 15th October 1796
DescriptionReport by Rothwell and FArnham.
With minutes from a meeting of the Association of Architects, held at the Thatched House Tavern, St Samuel's Street, 6th April 1797, into the findings of the report

Transcript of report of William Rothwell and Robert Parnham;

' October 22 1796

Report of William Rothwell and Robert Parnham on surveying the damage which was occasioned by Fire on Saturday the 15th day of October 1796 at Chavening House the Seat of Earl Stanhope near Seven Oaks in the County of Kent; in order to discover what Effects the Securing recommended by his Lordship (in the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1778, part the 2nd Pages 884 and following) had had in stopping the progress of it.
Upon the minutist inspection it appeared that only one small Room in the whole of the offices which were destroyed was secured, and in that room only the floor; and a very small staircase leading to it.
We were informed that almost all the Roofs which were consumed were slated, and in the common way; and the Slates were laid on Boards, without being bedded in mortar.
The reason of the Fire was from some fresh charcoal which had been laid in, and which was not cold, and which unperceived set fire to the Door and Doorcase of the Charcoal Room; and from thence communicating to a Roof about 141 feet long, over different offices, that led from that door to the East wing of the House.
The fire, we were told, ran along the Roofs, with great rapidity.
The floor, and securing work under the floor, of that Room which was partly secured, had been so much pulled up by the Country people who attempted to stop the flames, and who did not know that the floor was secured, that it was impossible to judge sufficiently of the good effects it most probably would have had, and which good effects were perceivable where the Boards had not been disturbed. As we found, notwithstanding that the Roof had fallen in, and a number of packing cases on that floor had been consumed, that the flooring Boards were only char'd on the top, and that the Joists underneath them were perfectly sound; which we were of opinion would have been the case with the floor of this Room entirely, if it had not been disturbed as before mentioned. - The Staircase leading to this room had been entirely pulled down and removed by the Country People.
The utility of the securing was manifested by its stopping the progress of the fire from communicating to the Roof of the East wing which had a large wooden Cornice around it, and the bottom part of which Cornice was at about Six feet above the ridge of the Roof of the Building which was destroyed; this Cornice was actually on fire; but the flames were prevented from communicating to the roof of the wing, by the double Lathing and securing work which had been done on the top part of the wooden Bearers, to the under side of which Bearers the plancier part of the Cornice was nailed. No part of the external boarding of the Cornice was secured. But the securing work on the abovementioned Bearers evidently saved the Roof of the wing from being destroyed.
The utility of the securing was most evident from the appearance of two long Bearers that were over a large Bath, and that came down lower than the Ceiling Joists, and which for the purpose of making them look more sightly had been lathed and plaistered, according to Lord Stanhopes method: and, notwithstanding that the Roof and the Ceiling floor were consumed, and the upper part of the Beams burnt to Charcoal, that part which had been lathed and plastered were not at all injured. No part of the Ceiling of that Bath was secured, except only those two Bearers above mentioned.
The Ceiling floors of a large Dairy and Larder were preserved from fire by a Covering placed under the Roofs but on the top of the Ceiling floors of those two Rooms, and which covering was composed of Tyles, laid on laths about an inch thick, nailed on the top of the Ceiling Joists, and which tyles were laid in, and jointed with securing mortar, and were covered with Lord Stanhope's Chalk Tar Composition that was put there to prevent the heat of the Sun from penetrating into those places. The Roofs when on fire fell down on the Chalk Tar Composition, but proceeded no further. '

Transcript of extract from the meeting of the associated architects;

' Thatched House Tavern, St James's Street, 6th April 1797. At a Meeting of the associeted Architects.

Present: Messrs Cockerell, Mylne, Brettingham, Hardwick, Payne, Tatham, Bonomi, Holland, Lewis, Juppe

Mr Holland having produced a Letter from Earl Stanhope dated "Chevening near Sevenoaks Kent March 27, 1797 " addressed to the Association together with a Postscript, Drawings, and a Beam (sawed in two parts about the middle) partly destroyed by Fire and part effectually secured by his Lordships Invention.
And the Members present having attentively viewed the same
That the Letter and Report be entered on the Minutes of the Association.

That Mr Holland do return thanks to Earl Stanhope for his Communications, and that he do (agreeable to the request made by his Lordship) forward one part of the Beam to the Royal Society, and the other part to the Society for Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce - also Copies of the Letters and Reports and together with Copies of their Minutes.

By order of the Association
H Holland '
Extent5 sides
Access statusOpen
Related materialSee MM/3/54
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