The Towering Inferno

The Engine Shed in 1999, a year after it was closed


p1040088.jpgAfter Railtrack closed the Welding school the building stood idle for several years until 17th July 2000 when the building was devastated by an arson attack. Three men Mark Terro, Matthew Lawler and Paul Gilmore, had been watching a film at the flat of a friend Danielle Cooper. Their chosen viewing was the 1974 film ‘Towering Inferno’ starring Steve Mqueen and Faye Dunnaway, about a blaze in a skyscraper. As the court heard when the three were tried for arson:






“Once the film had ended they all headed off in the direction of the welding school with Miss Cooper following. Terro had a lighter and Miss Cooper watched the three men approach the building and enter through and open door. As she walked away Miss Cooper saw the fire and called the police.”

“When two fire fighters entered the blazing building part of the roof collapsed, trapping some of their equipment. If it had fallen on them there could have been a fatality.”


Railtrack’s report into the fire noted that the fire had emanated from the internal port-a-cabin style office, and that the arsonists had used some form of accelerant. The building was gutted and left the western end exposed to the elements, with damage estimated at £82,000. All three men were found guilty of arson in June 2001. Mark Terro was sentenced to 30 months detention, Matthew Lawler 2 years and Paul Gilmour was given a suspended sentence.


Although Railtrack’s report into the fire damage concluded that the structural integrity of the building was sound, and included a plan to restore the Shed, they never saw through the works. Later that year they sold the Engine Shed to Avon Cosmetics, who already owned all the surrounding land on Nunn Mills. Without any real use for the building, it was left to decay, became overgrown with weeds and a magnet for criminality such as drug taking and dog fights.