Blaze engulfs iconic five-star Randolph Hotel

The Randolph Hotel in central Oxford caught fire on Friday 17th April in one of the highest-profile emergencies to have taken place in the city for several years.

Fire crews remained at the site of the five-star hotel for several days following a blaze which began around 4:30 on Friday afternoon. The fire is thought to have originated from chefs flambéing beef in a ground floor kitchen.

Half of Beaumont Street, where the hotel is located, remains closed.

Simon Furlong, assistant chief fire officer at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We were working overnight to damp down the embers. There was a wedding party we were liaising with them and we went back in and got the rings and the floor plans. Those are small things but it’s someone’s special day today.”

Furlong continued by describing how the fire had, “spread up through some voids” through the building to the roof which would have protected much of the interior. The extent of the damage is not yet fully assessed, but the top peak of the middle tower has been visibly damaged, and blackened beams poke through the damaged parts of the roof.

One student bystander at the event commented: “The smoke was really heavy and black – it spread as far as Gloucester Green and you could smell it everywhere. People had been evacuated from the Ashmolean Museum opposite the Randolph as well as from the hotel itself, and it was just chaos really. The fact that nobody was hurt is obviously really lucky, and it’s fantastic that the emergency services were able to do their job so well.”

Regent’s Park student Kate Bickerton was also present. She added: “It was obviously sad to see such a prominent Oxford landmark being destroyed. I’m glad no-one was hurt during the incident. The road being closed was a major issue in my life, and it took me ages to get home”.

Three people were assessed by South Central Ambulance Service due to concerns of smoke-inhalation, but did not require hospitalisation or further medical treatment. 

Buildings in the local area, including the OUSU headquarters, were exacuated when the smoke level was at its highest level.

A Thames Valley Police Spokesperson stated:  “The hotel and other buildings adjoining it have been evacuated as a precaution and there have been no reported casualties, nor has anybody needed to be rescued.”

Rodney Rose, the Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, praised the firefighters at the scene, saying: “The county council is very proud of its fire and rescue service and yet again our firefighters have responded magnificently – this time to a very high profile incident at one of Oxford City Centre’s most well known hotels.”

The Randolph Hotel was a regular feature in the TV series ​Inspector Morse​, and has, according to the MacDonald Hotels & Resort Website, “played host to world leaders, Prime Ministers and Presidents” for almost 150 years. ​Passports and luggage were delivered to tourists needing to catch flights and the Randolph Hotel has provided alternative accommodation while recovery work continues.

Scaffolding was being erected around the building on Saturday morning for repairs, and will remain for the foreseeable future.

The Randolph hotel has estimated that the fire may have caused millions of pounds of damage, particularly in the kitchen.

In an interview with The Oxford Mail, Michael Grange, the hotel’s owner, said that the damage had been “devestating”.

However, the hotel may be able to reopen as early as Saturday.

PHOTO/Laura Whetherly