On Tuesday 22nd November flames engulfed a derelict house adjacent to The John Fisher School in Purley. The alarm was raised shortly after 7:00pm. Fire fighters were quickly on the scene and battled the blaze from Peaks Hill road and the school’s car park. Their efforts averted disaster by extinguishing the fire before it could reach the school.
That evening, news of the fire quickly spread and caused a storm of Facebook posts and tributes from John Fisher boys as many reminisced the faith meetings and lessons they had in this once-grand house. The house was fondly nicknamed Takapuna by members of the John Fisher School.
The house is nestled among overlapping trees. The precarious position posed a fire risk to the school.
To some, the ultimate demise of this building may not come as a surprise as it had been unoccupied for several years.
According to the school, the house was bought in 1948 to be a home for priests who taught there. Over the years it was used as a meeting place for the school’s faith society. The last permanent resident was Fr. Richard Fawssett who lived there until his death in June 2009.
In early 2008 my class was inside the house for a lesson and from my recollection there were no obvious signs of dilapidation. The house was still actively used at this time.
The property is owned by the local diocese who proposed to put it up for sale for development. In late 2009, the house, which was now starting to show signs of deterioration, was deserted.
Shortly afterwards, the decision was made to have the house sealed: the windows were boarded up and in 2010 the entire surrounding pathways were barricaded.
At the time of writing, the cause of the fire is unknown. It serves little purpose to speculate, pending any investigation. As of yet it is also unknown what will become of the site.