an investigation of the investigation into the 1981 New Cross Fire

Produced by MA students at the Centre for Research Architecture and facilitated by Stafford Scott & Kamara Scott, Guest Professors, Forensic Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London, 2022-23


digital archive of research materials
diagrams and links



On the night of January 18th, 1981, partygoers gathered at the Ruddock family house. The party was to celebrate the 16th birthday of Yvonne Ruddock, and her friend, Angela Jackson. At around 5:40am, a fire raged through the house, claiming the lives of 13 people and one more victim two years later.

As MA students at the Centre for Research Architecture, we have been investigating the New Cross Fire. Our aim is not to produce a singular narrative of the night itself nor come to any definitive conclusions regarding the cause of the fire. Rather, we hope to expose failures to conduct a thorough and fair police investigation. In other words, we seek to investigate the investigation.

This project includes an open-source reconstruction of the events that unfolded on that night. The information used comes from unsealed documents from the George Padmore Institute, the Black Cultural Archives, the National Archives, and open-source planning applications and satellite imagery. Though this project has sought to investigate the police investigation of the New Cross Fire, we have faced the challenge of sealed or difficult-to-access documents.

We situate ourselves as students and researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, an institution that has played a role in the gentrification of New Cross. As such, we find ourselves both within the local context and also working at an instiution that is implicated in a particular history of the area, specifically having abetted local gentrification. None of us witnessed the fire, though we have tried to source witness testimony where possible. We have had the time and capacity to find archival material located in scattered places throughout the city and hope this website presents said material to an audience both locally and afar.

The house at 439 New Cross Road is a Georgian terrace house that the council of Lewisham has owned since the late 1960s. It has three floors, a basement, and a toilet that protrudes into the back garden. The police investigation began in order to determine the source of the fire, which started somewhere in the front room of the ground floor. No one was in this room at the time of the fire, as most of the party was taking place upstairs.

Our research has been organised into five key questions. Through these questions we hope to expose how racism within different institutions like the media, the police, and the coroner’s office contributed to the inconclusive results of the New Cross Fire. By looking at a specific case with this set of questions, we can lay bare the racism that ultimately remains within those institutions. 


Siufan Adey
Moza Almazrouei
Merve Anil
Adeeba Arastu
Claire August
Fine Bieler
Rowena De Silva
Olivia Gresham
Jade Guinard
Faye Harvey
Oliver Jacob
Dafni Karavola
Kasia Lukasik
Bethan McKinnie
Emmanuel Onapa
Leonie Rusham
Veronika Varga


Special thanks to Susan Schuppli and Christina Varvia from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths and Stafford Scott and Kamara Scott from Tottenham Rights for their guidance and advice throughout the project. Thank you to Ifor Duncan and Gwendolyn Wallace for their editing assistance.

Thank you to Dr. Adam Elliott-Cooper for his knowledge on policing and Black British history and Nacheal Catnott for her insight into the New Cross Fire documentary Uprising.

And a heartfelt thank you to Leila Hassan Howe for honoring us with your invaluable experiences and insights into Black British history, community resistance, and the NCMAC.