An islander, whose family have held a presence in Charing Cross for over 100 years, says she hopes the area will “rise like a Phoenix out of the ashes” after a blaze tore through a historic restaurant there yesterday.
Pauline Cornick, whose grandparents moved into 16 Charing Cross in 1912 and whose son now lives there, made the comments as she watched the blaze tear apart 17 Charing Cross’s Pizzeria Romana, of which she said her family was very fond.
Video: Firefighters tackling the Charing Cross blaze yesterday.
Mrs Cornick, who grew up in and now owns the 18th century building next door to the pizzeria, told Express she was none the wiser until she got a call from her son, John.
Arriving at his home, noticed that the door was open – likely from firefighters having to force their way through – and observed thick smoke, which was so dense that islanders reported seeing it from across town, pouring out of the building next door.
Police soon cordoned off the area to everyone except residents of the Premier Inn opposite Pizzeria Romana.
Pictured: Both Pizzeria Romana and its neighbour, 16 Charing Cross, are over 300-year-old listed buildings.
Mrs Cornick was among those at the front of the cordon, passing her full set of keys to John, who in turn relayed them to the firefighters.
In total, 23 firefighters and five appliances – including an aerial lift – were involved in the hours-long effort to put out the fire. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but the blaze gutted the historic Pizzeria Romana building.
The restaurant has stood there 1989, but the building’s roots stretch back to the 18th century.
Pictured: 23 firefighters were involved in putting out the blaze.
It is listed, meaning that it gets special protection from development under the law, due to the original early 18th century roof beams and internal woodwork, as well as the historic joinery fittings, fireplace surrounds and staircase from the early 20th century.
The pizzeria also shares a chimney with Mrs Cornick’s building, dates back to the 1700s and features an iconic Romanesque façade placed there in the 19thcentury. The full extent of the damage to this building, and the building on the restaurant’s right side, is not yet known, but smoke and water damage was visible at the time of the blaze.
Mrs Cornick told Express it was heartbreaking to view the destruction of the area in which she grew up.
Pictured: An aerial appliance had to be used.
“It’s a shock. I’ve never known something like this.
“My grandparents moved into that building in 1912 and it’s gone through the family and now it’s our building, and it’s also our son’s home. It’s a happy family building,” she said.
Making yesterday’s blaze all the more tragic was the fact that the area had just been enjoying renewed attention from islanders, following the opening of the new Premier Inn and development of the Pitt Street area.
Mrs Cornick added that she wasn’t surprised that hundreds of islanders stopped in their tracks to watch the inferno. She said she understood the area was likely just as dear to their hearts as those inhabiting the area.
Pictured: Islanders stopped in their tracks to watch the fire as it ripped through the building.
Her husband also shared his sadness at the destruction of the historic restaurant, where he was due to celebrate his birthday next week. “We love our Charing Cross,” he commented.
But Mrs Cornick said she refused to be downtrodden about what had happened, and was sure the historic zone would rise again “like a phoenix”.
“Out of the ashes, we will have to rebuild,” she said.
Pictured: What remains of Pizzeria Romana.
Angela Pigliacelli told Express that her husband, Tony, who owns Pizzeria Romana, was distraught. “The pizzeria is his life,” she stated.
She said he had not yet started thinking about the future of the restaurant as he was “too distressed”.
In the aftermath of the blaze, dozens of islanders heaped praise on the firefighters that worked hard to control and ultimately put out the fire – including entering the premises to target the source of the flames before retreating amid fears the roof would collapse.
Constable of St. Helier, Simon Crowcroft, shared his thoughts with the owners of the pizzeria and expressed thanks to those that assisted in the efforts to control the blaze. He said that Parish would help support the restaurant in "any way we can".
Huge concern and sympathy being expressed by everyone in town this afternoon seeing the Pizzeria Romana in flames. Thanks to @JerseyPolice @JsyFire @StHelierHonPol for assisting. @StHelierJsy will support the staff and proprietor in any way we can.— Simon Crowcroft (@SimonCrowcroft) April 15, 2019
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