A Victorian postcard featuring the Alhambra Theatre in Leicester Square in London. There was a large fire in this theatre which killed two MFB firemen and nearly killed the Prince of Wales who had gone to see the fire.
Theatre fires were very common in Victorian times because of the gas lamps used to light the stage. In 1881/82 Shaw was requested to conduct an inspection of theatres and make recommendations for their protection.
Just after finishing his report, the Alhambra Theatre burnt down and as one of the walls collapsed it killed two of Shaw’s men and nearly killed the Prince of Wales.
Shaw’s article Fires in Theatres recommended that all walls in theatres should be of strong construction, that there should be enough exits for people to escape and that theatres should have a good water supply. He also devised the theatre fire curtain (still in use today) which would be made of metal and if a fire started it could divide the theatre from the auditorium.