max temp: 16°C

min temp: 8°C


Video and gallery: Homes evacuated as blaze sweeps through old garrison building in Roman Circus Walk, Colchester

12:16 13 April 2014

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze at the old garrison site in Colchester. Photo: Darius G Laws.

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze at the old garrison site in Colchester. Photo: Darius G Laws.


Evacuees have described waking to “apocalyptic” scenes as flames engulfed a derelict garrison building in Colchester, forcing them from their homes.


Around 30 people living near the former Grade II listed building in Roman Circus Walk were told to leave their homes as fire raged through the Sergeants’ Mess.

Keith Gilligan, 31, was at home with his wife and their four-year-old son when they were woken by police at 1am.

“There was a really thick black smoke, you couldn’t see much and it was really heavy on your chest,” said Mr Gilligan, who described the scenes as “apocalyptic”.

The family gathered at a neighbour’s house with around 20 other evacuees while Colchester Borough Council prepared temporary accommodation for them at Leisure World on Cowdray Avenue.

Georgina Barthaud, 20, was in town with friends when her boyfriend called to say the building beside his flat was on fire.

“He said the air was very hazy and the next moment the police were knocking on the door saying we need you out,” she said.

“At the time it just looked like it was a small fire but after he went to get a change of clothes, he came back and it had shot up in flames - he’d never seen anything like it.

“It panicked me because it’s right next to the flat and as I was walking back from town I could see a big black cloud of smoke.”

Three fire crews from Colchester and appliances from West Mersea, Tiptree, Coggeshall and Tollesbury fought the blaze for several hours, containing it half way along the 63m x 30m block.

Assistant divisional officer Paul Gardner said: “When we arrived we were faced with a well developed fire raging in the ground floor of the building. Crews have done an excellent job in getting on top of the fire.”

A retired sergeant, formerly stationed at the garrison, said it was a “terrible” sight as he surveyed the burnt out shell.

“It was a lovely building and it’s a real shame this has happened,” he added.

Following a spate of fires at historic buildings in thee town, including this Victorian gymnasium near Abbey Field, Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell has called upon the borough council to “demand” that owners make their buildings more secure.

“This building is part of the rich heritage of the Army in Colchester and was one of the buildings which the council, along with English Heritage, insisted should be retained,” he said.

“Therefore the borough council must take firm action against the owner of the property.”

The mess, which was built in the mid 19th Century, is owned by housing developers Taylor Wimpey.



Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Ipswich Star visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Ipswich Star staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Ipswich Star account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

A seal boarded Terry Davey's boat in the River Orwell.

A 71-year-old rower was joined by an unexpected companion while taking on a life-long dream to scull solo from Woodbridge to Ipswich in a boat of his own design and building.

Terry Kidgell is staging a star-studded show at the Ipswich Regent on Monday, October 12, in aid of Macmillan after he was diagnosed with terminal bowl cancer. One of those appearing will be his niece Robyn Mellor, currently starring on London's West End. The other will be America’s Got Talent 2015 winner Paul Zerdin.
Terry with his niece Robyn.

What would you do if you were told you had just months to live? For Terry Kidgell, diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in August, the answer was simple – throw a charity gala in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

A broken down train between Diss and Norwich caused the disruption

Save the Duke Share Launch, led by campaigners Sarah Caston and Lucy Batchelor-Wylam

A community campaign launched at the end of August to save a village’s pub has raised more than 40% of the money it needs.

Police are appealing for witnesses after a fail to stop collision on the A14 at Nacton.

Alcohol was repeatedly sold to underage drinkers in Ipswich

An Ipswich man has pleaded guilty to selling alcohol to children from his shop.

The homeless in Ipswich tuck in to a hot meal at the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter. Photograph Simon Parker

The Ipswich Winter Night Shelter has launched a drive for volunteers ahead of opening its doors on December 2.

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central

A major conference aimed at pushing ahead with dramatic changes to Ipswich town centre is to be held at the end of this month.

Motorists were sent on a diversion nearly 30miles (47.7km) long

We all bemoan the diversions which close the highways and byways of Suffolk when roadworks are set up.

The Northgate High School team competing at a regional heat in Ford Dunton

Northgate High School pupils are preparing for a grand prix experience as they compete in the finals of the Greenpower International Kit Car competition.

Most read

Most commented

Topic pages