Police investigate as Van Mildert boathouse burns down


The University is “working closely” with Durham Constabulary to investigate the cause of a fire yesterday evening at the Van Mildert College’s boathouse. The house and all its boats have been destroyed, and there are no reported injuries.

Just after 7pm last night County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service received a report that a fire had broken out at the boathouse, located below Kingsgate Bridge, opposite Dunelm House.

The boathouse was attended to by two fire appliances, from Durham and High Handenhold. The fire service was able to extinguish the fire using two jets and left the scene at 20:33.

Most of the boathouse’s structure and all its contents, including eight boats, have reportedly been lost. Van Mildert Boat Club’s treasurer Jess Scott told Chronicle Live that the fire had caused around £100,000 worth of damage.

No injuries were sustained in the blaze, and the boat club’s new wooden landing stage, which was erected at the end of last term, only suffered minor damage. The fire did not spread to nearby trees.

Rob Smith, the president of Van Mildert Boat Club, told Palatinate he was “devastated” by the incident: “The boathouse holds strong sentimental value for the generations of rowers through the club. We will be working hard with college and authorities to get the club back up and running.”

In an email to a member of the boat club, Durham Regatta, the group responsible for organising many of the races that take place along the river Wear, has offered “as much assistance as is practical in helping the college boat club get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Durham Amateur Rowing Club expressed similar regret on Twitter last night, offering to “help where we can while you recover and rebuild stronger.”

The incident comes at a difficult time for the Boat Club after two years of disrupted rowing due to consistently bad weather conditions two years ago and the coronavirus pandemic.

A Durham Constabulary spokesperson said: “We were alerted to a fire at the boathouse of Van Mildert Boat Club, in Durham City, shortly after 21:05 yesterday (December 21). An investigation is ongoing into the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

A spokesperson for Durham University told Palatinate: “We were notified of an incident late on Tuesday evening at Van Mildert boathouse. The incident was attended by the emergency services and there were no reported injuries. 

“An investigation into the cause of this incident is underway and we will continue to work closely with Durham Constabulary and their experts as the investigation continues.” 

Image: Jess Scott

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