Contents Our Memories Fire Alarms & Fires


Gym Fire        Pavilion Fire        Discussion

Gym Fire - February 26th 1972

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Gym fire aftermath The Gym itself Adjacent storage area
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Norwich Mercury
(Large file - 168KB)
Eastern Evening News
(Large file - 393KB)


Pavilion Fire - September 1972

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Remains of the Pavilion Before... and after

Re the cricket pavilion burning down; the 1st XV rugby squad were "prime suspects" for a while, as we had been back 2/3 days before the return of school for "pre-season training," i.e. most evenings spent in the pub on the old A11 (now a house!) or at the cinema in Wymondham.  I always thought that one of the CGS pupils was responsible by having had a crafty fag in the ball store at lunchtime (not many actual Wycoll pupils back at that time).

Phil Robinson


Colin Farrington and Ian Gomeche discuss some burning issues

It is incredible to believe, but for my first few years at WyColl none of the housing blocks and certainly none of the classrooms had fire alarms. I wonder if the sports hall complex ever did have also? - not that it seemed to work when required to when the gym burned to the ground.

Anyway, I vividly remember when fire alarms were installed in the housing blocks in I would say 1966-68. We had buttons all over the houses to press which were not in glass boxes for some strange reason. Once the button was pressed and the klaxons in the courtyards started making their infernal racket, the noise could only be stopped by pressing the reset button or switch or whatever in the housemaster's flat. Of course the inevitable happened and the alarms would be going off at all hours of the day or night. If the Gloucester alarm went off on a Saturday afternoon while Seeley was off refereeing League football matches then it would be some considerable time before harassed house staff could gain access to Seeley's flat and turn the thing off.

To try and discourage us from pressing the buttons all the time, the staff would have a full house fire drill and roll call outside every time the alarm went off - even it was in the middle of a cold night and obviously a hoax. Many a time I remember trooping out in my pyjamas to stand on the grass outside the house. The staff would call all our names out then make us stand there for quite some time before we were allowed back inside.

Eventually the buttons were encased in glass-fronted little red boxes and all the false alarms ceased. There was always the danger while all these fire drills were continually going on that someone would be out of bounds visiting their girlfriend or whatever and the roll call would reveal their absence from the house. I believe that this did happen a few times.


The fire alarms were put in the houses in 1968. Initially the buttons were proud of the boxes, but due to people "falling" against them there was a block of wood put under the cover so the buttons were then recessed, which reduced the occasions that alarms happened. I never remember them being put behind glass in my time there!

The stairways were "enclosed" in about 1970; this was by a screen with fire resisting glazing and a self closing door. The only other building that had a fire inspection was the sports hall. This was done annually under the Theatres Act for the School play etc. I know this because my Dad was normally the Inspecting Officer - used to be handy, as I would bump into him occasionally round the school and it was an ideal opportunity to tap him for some extra pocket money!

Regarding fires, in my time there I remember four

  1. The gym burnt down, cause unknown, and I will if I get a chance contact my friends in the Fire Brigade and see if the fire report is still in the archives. Can anyone come up with an exact date?

  2. The pavilion burnt down, must have been early 70's and I believe that this was due to some smokers disposing of cigarette ends through knot holes in the walls.

  3. There was a fire in one of the dorms in York house on a Sunday evening when the seniors were at chapel. I had been on a Cadet Force hike and got back too late to attend. We had just finished the late meal we had booked and the fire alarm went off. As the only seniors in the house we took the roll call then went to investigate. The top floor 8 dorm over the archway was where the fire was & totally destroyed the wardrobe. I remember that a sixth former from Salisbury got there first and we had nearly extinguished the fire with extinguishers brought from all over the block by the time the Fire Brigade got there. I don't know the cause of it but there were no electrics nearby, so I would suggest "smoking materials". I believe it was the fourth form dorm.

  4. The other one I remember was a chip pan fire in one of the staff chalets behind Gloucester, and being sent by Seeley to guide the fire brigade in.

Strangely enough, I did work out of Wymondham Fire Station for a few years and the only fire I attended at the College was a chip pan fire in one of the staff chalets behind Gloucester!


Hold the presses as they say, these old College magazines are a source of info. From the 1970 mag:

"During the summer holiday (so that would be summer 69) the halls of residence were fitted with new fire doors, emergency lights and a siren warning system. For a time these innovations brought an element of farce into college life, for the very sensitive push switches for these alarms protruded at shoulder height where a light touch could set them off. As a result there were so many false alarms during the first week that the system had to be switched off except for the hours of sleep. This temporary expedient at least cut down the spectacle of groups of ill-clad and ill-tempered pupils parading before the houses at all hours. A final solution to the problem was devised in the workshops, where about 200 wooden washers were made so that the top plates of the switches were raised flush with the buttons. Since then, the sirens have been much muted."

1972 Mag:

"The gym was gutted by fire in the small hours of the 26th February (1972). The whole school was fingerprinted following this."

1973 Mag:

"Winter term 1972. The term was not more than two hours old when the cricket pavilion was gutted by fire."


Yes, I remember the Seeley cheapskate solution to the fire alarm problem. Bearing in mind that nearly all false alarms were malicious, it was the standing around for ages in the cold outside that was the main deterrent in stopping people pressing the buttons, not Seeley's woodworking skills!

I remember the fire doors. They weren't! They were sheets of asbestos screwed onto the existing doors with NO paint or anything on the asbestos, i.e. the school were trying to kill us all with asbestosis! This could explain a lot perhaps. I think they reluctantly put a coat of paint on the asbestos eventually.






Wymondham College Remembered