Report on the outbreak of the fire, 23rd September 1882


6 10 82

My dear Walker

I send you some

papers in reference to the

Garden Palace. Sir

John had them in connection

with a recent debate in

the House. I think

they properly belong to

the Col Secretarys Dept

Yours faithfully

Charles Oliver

Critchett Walker Esquire
The Colonial Architect to the Principal Under Secretary reporting destruction of the Garden Palace by Fire

82/6815                        Department of Public Works

25 Sept                         Colonial Architects Office

Sydney 23rd September 1882




It is my painful duty

to report that on yesterday

morning at about twenty

minutes to six oclock, a

fire broke out in the Garden

Palace, resulting in the

total destruction of that

building and its contents

the fire spreading with such


The Principal

Under Secretary
rapidity that in forty minute,

from its commencement nothing

remained but a mass of

smouldering ruins.

2.     In reporting this calamitous

event, I do myself the honor

to give the particulars of the

occurrence as furnished by F.

Kirchen, the night watch man

and J. Mcknight the caretaker

to my officer, Mr Simpson

employed in attending to

works required in and about

the building.

Kirchen the night watchman

stated that he went on duty

the previous evening at 5.45

and remained on duty the


whole of the night, during which

time he was visited three times

by Police Constables McVane and

Day – the last visit being at

5.15am, the constables named

were in the building as far

as the fountain – they remained

two or three minutes, and then

walked towards the West entrance

and left about 5.30am – the

constables had only left him

two or three minutes, when he

had to let Mcknight the caretaker

in at the gates – this was about

25 minutes to 6 oclock – they both

went towards the western Entrance

and while doing so, observed smoke

issuing from the building – they

then ran towards the fire cocks


in the west transept, connected

the hose and applied the

water to where the smoke was

coming up the well hole of the

fountain in dense masses – they

as well connected a second

length of hose a(nd) turned to get

down the staircase of the

dome, but were driven back,

and had to abandon the hose

and branch director, the fire

was so great – they then ran

to the Telephone, and at the same

time commenced ringing the

large Bell at the west entrance

by this time they were driven

out of the building, and nothing

could save it – Kirchen also

states that he was in the

basement four times during

the night, the last time

about a quarter to five oclock

and returned from the basement

by the north tower staircase

without noticing any smell of

fire, or anything to cause

alarm – he then went along

the north nave, and west

transept, to the west door to

let in the two constables, and

did not detect anything to

excite his curiosity during the

night, he added that assistance

came in about a quarter of

an hour from the time the

fire was first noticed, but

assistance was of no avail

The particulars given by

Mcknight the Caretaker respecting

relieving the night watchman

when the fire was first noticed

and what was done by both

are similar to those given by

Kirchen the night watchman

I may state that I was

at the scene of the fire before

seven oclock, but the building

was at that time in ruins.

All information that can

be obtained as to the origin

of the fire will no doubt be

elicited at the enquiry

that will be made by the


I have the honor to be


Your Obedient Servant

James Barnet

Col Archt


From record series NRS 906 Colonial Secretary: Special Bundles – 1879-82 Garden Palace (applications for space in, report of the Colonial Architect on the fire, newspaper reports of the inquiry into the fire, re records lost in the fire, etc [1/2527.2]

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