Twenty five fire engines and around 150 firefighters were called to deal with a fire at the Law Society’s headquarters on Chancery Lane on Saturday evening.
The roof of the six-storey building and a staircase from the third to the fifth floor were destroyed by the fire. Half of the third and fourth floor were also damaged, according to the London Fire Brigade.
The fire was in 114 Chancery Lane – a neighbouring building to the main 113 bought around 20 years ago – which ironically used to be the home to the Law Fire Insurance Society, whose name is still inscribed on the blocked entrance to that part of the building.
The main building, including historic parts such as the library, reading room and common room, was undamaged, a Law Society spokesman has confirmed.
The brigade was called at 10.40pm on Saturday and confirmed that the fire was under control by 9.48am yesterday. Fire crews from 10 different fire stations were at the scene.
The society was hosting the Junior Lawyers Division chair’s dinner at the time, and around 28 people left the building before the brigade arrived and 11 people were evacuated from nearby flats as a precaution.
There were no reports of any injuries and the cause of the blaze is as yet unconfirmed.
As of Monday morning, the bulk of the society’s 400 staff were largely working remotely while assessment of the damage continued.
Assistant Commissioner Dom Ellis, who was at the scene, said: “This was a very complex fire due to the age and layout of the building.
“Firefighters worked throughout the night in very challenging and arduous conditions to prevent the fire from spreading to key areas of the historic building, while also trying to prevent water damage.
“Crews remained on scene throughout Sunday damping down and cutting away. They also carried out salvage work to minimise damage to the building.”
Law Society chief executive Paul Tennant said: “First of all I wanted to express my gratitude to the fire service and my relief that nobody has been hurt. I also want to express my sympathy to the residents in the Chancery Lane area whom I understand may have had to evacuate their homes.
“It is too early to comment on the cause of the fire or the extent of the damage but clearly we are extremely upset that this has happened to this wonderful and historic building.”
He praised the society’s on-site staff and others for their “calm response”.
Laura Uberoi, who represents the JLD on the Law Society council and was at the event, tweeted: “I cannot express in words my gratitude to our fantastic emergency services @LondonFire for all of their efforts on the beautiful building that is home to our profession @TheLawSociety. Devastating to watch after being evacuated last night, but so thankful it is in such good hands.”
Law Society vice-president David Greene, who was also there, tweeted: “The damage is serious but most importantly no one was injured and whilst 113 is closed I hope we return shortly. The TLS home in London is a wonderful historic building and like many of us of age, fragile.”
The Law Society was founded in 1825 and the building first opened to members in 1832. It is now a Grade II* listed building, meaning it is a particularly important building of more than special interest.
On 5 August, the London Fire Brigade said: “Fire investigators have now completed their examination at the scene and believe the cause of the fire to be accidental, although the exact cause has currently been recorded as undetermined.
“The fire appears to have started within a ceiling void on the third floor and subsequently spread throughout the voids, increasing the challenge for our firefighters with both firefighting and protecting the contents of the building.”