Brave dog rescued Lauderdale House from huge fire of 1963 - now your pooch can save it again
PUBLISHED: 14:44 31 March 2015 | UPDATED: 15:50 31 March 2015
It is now a proud Highgate landmark, but beloved Lauderdale House would have burned to the ground long ago had it not been for the actions of one brave pooch.
The 16th-century mansion was ravaged by a huge fire in the summer of August 1963, gutting the upper floors and coming close to claiming the lives of one family.
They managed to escape the swirling flames by climbing out of a window, all thanks to their German Shepherd Schutzen first alerting them to the blaze.
John Chandler, who then lived at the mansion with wife Doreen and their two children, recounted to the Ham&High in 1999 how he watched in horror as the fire engulfed the historic house.
“Schutzen was pulling on my arm, and my first thought was, ‘Why am I having trouble breathing?’ Then I realised the room was full of smoke,” he said.
“That dog saved all our lives.”
Mr Chandler, then 35, went to open the front door of his flat, but was met with a wall of flames climbing the skirting boards and the linoleum floor bubbling from the heat.
“Then the rooflight over the stairs collapsed and a huge ball of flame shot up,” Mr Chandler recalled.
The family was trapped inside, but a group of policemen arrived on the scene in time to form a human pyramid up to their first-floor window to take Mrs Chandler and the two children to safety.
They then found a ladder, allowing Mr Chandler to escape the raging blaze while holding Schutzen in his arms.
It took 15 fire engines to extinguish the blaze, which left the house roofless and the upper floors obliterated. Schutzen was later awarded a medal for bravery by the Daily Mirror, which ran the story on its front page.
The mansion was left derelict for 15 years afterwards, until the community formed the Lauderdale House Society, the charity which now runs the house.
It was then painstakingly restored before its grand opening as an arts and education centre by then-chairman and acclaimed conductor Yehudi Menuhin in 1978.
But 37 years on, the house is once again in need of restoration.
It has already raised £1.8million as it vies to secure the mansion’s future for generations to come, but it is calling on the community to help it raise an additional £125,000 through online crowdfunding campaign, Lauderdale Transformed: The Historic Galleries. The money would pay to refurbish the two upper-floor galleries.
It is hoped that north London’s pooches might be able to lend a paw to secure the fate of the historic mansion, as Schutzen did before them.
The house is urging all dog-lovers to bring in their canines to recreate a watercolour currently hanging in the British Museum.
The artwork, painted in 1858, is of a dog resting in front of a red cushion at the house in front of what is known as “Nell Gwynn’s bath”, named after the infamous mistress of King Charles II, who lived at the mansion for a time.
Pet owners are encouraged to have their mutt pose for a photograph in the same spot, before posting the picture online with a link to Lauderdale House’s crowdfunding campaign and the hashtag #dogs4Lauderdale.
The aim is to raise awareness for the Lauderdale Transformed fundraising campaign.
Director Katherine Ives said: “A dog saved us once so maybe dogs can help save us again.”
Jane Milligan, actress and daughter of legendary comedian Spike Milligan, was the first to pose with her dog Scrumpy.
* Donate to the crowdfunding campaign at crowdfunder.co.uk/lauderdaletransformed or by paying at the house with cheques, cash and credit cards.
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