Covent Garden Theatre burning, London, 1856.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate from the 'Illustrated London News'. The Covent Garden Theatre opened in 1733 and in 1786 Handel conducted his 'Mesiah' there. This was the second time the building was gutted by fire, the first being in 1808, after which it was reconstructed by Sir Thomas Smirk (1781-1867). Smirk's building was destroyed by this fire in 1856. The fire is being fought using the presure dome method, which uses air presure to propel the water towards the fire in a smooth jet. The pump required six men on either side of the engine to work the arch lever. The steam engine, though experimented with in the late 1820s, was not introduced until the 1860s.