Theatres on Fire - The Victorian Curse

Jennifer Fewster

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In late 19th century Australia, theatre fires had become so common that one of the most popular medicines of the time was advertised under the somewhat misleading headline, “A Theatre on Fire”.

    Advertorial for a patent medicine told readers that “panic was averted” and “fire was got under (control)” due to the quick thinking of an actor who had the wherewithal to perform the Sailor’s Hornpipe after the outbreak of fire. The moral of the piece being that “if we only have the presence of mind to think of Holloway’s Pills and Ointment all will be well and danger need not be feared”.

    Unfortunately, the risks of fire in theatres during the 19th century were very real. A newspaper article published in 1897 claimed that “732 theatres have been destroyed by fire” leaving victims “numbered by the thousands” since the middle of the previous century.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-57
    Number of pages2
    JournalStage Whispers
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


    • Theatres
    • Fire
    • theatre fire incidents
    • Australia


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