A few years ago I posted an article relating to the deaths of four children in a house fire in the Wybourn district of Sheffield . The fire occurred on New Years Eve 1945 at a house on Maltravers Crescent.

Just over thirteen years earlier, four children lost their lives at a house fire in Irving Street which is in the Darnall area of Sheffield. It is barely a couple of miles away from Maltravers Crescent. The family who were devastated by the fire were the Booth family. Thomas C Booth married Caroline Johnson in 1928 in Sheffield. Caroline had a child Eric from an earlier relationship 

The first report of the tragedy was in the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated Tuesday 06 December 1932

THREE CHILDREN DEAD IN FIRE. Bodies Crouching in Room with Baby. 

Three children lost their lives as the result of a fire at Sheffield last night and another child is in hospital in a dangerous condition. The victims were: Carrie Booth (8), Dorothy Booth (4), Thomas Booth (2). The other child was a few months old baby. The children were the daughters and son of Thomas Booth, 44 Irving Street, Sheffield, who was at work at the time the fire broke out at his home. A brother of the victims, Eric Booth (12), gave the alarm dashing into neighbour's house and screaming that the house was on fire. Several persons dashed to the rescue, but were driven back by flames and smoke, and it was not until firemen arrived that an entrance could be forced to the room where the children were. The bodies of the dead children were found out of bed and crouching in a corner of the bedroom, together with the few months old baby Sophia Booth, who was rushed to Sheffield Infirmary. Her condition is critical. 

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph had this report

THREE CHILDREN DEAD IN SHEFFIELD FIRE. Fourth Child Dangerously ill in the Royal Infirmary. 


 House Entered by Knocking a Hole Through Adjoining Dwelling. - A triple fire tragedy occurred at Darnall, Sheffield, late last night, resulting in the deaths of three young children, a fourth  baby a few months old was removed the Sheffield Royal Infirmary suffering from severe burns. Early this morning the baby was said to dangerously ill. The dead children are overcome. The three older children were dead when found. Mr. William Smith, aged 30, of 25, Irving Street, Sheffield, gave a graphic description of the rescue attempts to “Sheffield Telegraph representative. I and father,” he said, “heard the alarm given, and father tried get into the house through the window. We broke the window, but could not manage get in. Then we got ladder and tried the upper room, but this, too, was impossible.”

 Carrie Booth (8) ; Dorothy Booth (4); Tommy Booth (2), all of 14, Irving Street, Darnall. Wilfred Humphries, another neighbour, tried to get in through the back bedroom window, but he also was unsuccessful. Another would-be rescuer, W alter Launders, 11, Desmond Place, was cut about the hands in trying to get through a window, and was taken to hospital for treatment. 

Mother Near Scene of Another Fire. 

They were the children of Thomas Booth, miner, who was following his employment at the Tinsley Park Colliery when the tragedy occurred. The fire seems to have assumed large proportions with tragic suddenness. Shortly before 10.15 Mrs. H. Bower, a neighbour, had walked along the street and noticed nothing wrong. A particularly tragic feature of this triple tragedy is that when the fire broke out with such suddenness, Mrs. Booth, the children’s mother, was at the bottom of the street with other people near a look-up shop, where the Fire Brigade had been attending a small fire. Mr. Harry Bower, whose efforts are described above, told the “Telegraph” representative how dashed into the burning kitchen and fought his way upstairs. “There were flames all over the kitchen,” he said, “.and a table in the middle of the floor was a blazing mass. Like the others, I did what I could. I wish I could have managed to get them out,” added, sadly. A number of the rescuers were members of the Liberal Club, nearly apposite the burning house, and they were inside the club the time. A few minutes afterwards, as she and her husband, Mr. Harry Bower, were in their home having supper, Mr. and Mrs. Booth’s 12-year-old son, Eric, dashed to their door and cried, “Oh, the house is on fire. Come!” 

House a Mass of Flame. Mr. and Mrs. Bower rushed to the back and saw that the interior of the house next door was a mass of flame. Mr. Bower, finding the kitchen door unlocked, ran inside and managed to get through the blazing kitchen to the staircase. In mounting the staircase, however, Mr.  Rovce, a disabled ex-soldier, was handicapped by a leg disability; he managed get near the top but was then driven back choking fumes and more flames. Rushing back through the blaze, he returned to his own house, getting a ladder from the cellar, and put it against the wall the burning building, with the aid of others who were bv now on the scene. Mr. Tom Bower, 6, Cooper Place, a nephew of Mr. Harry Bower, said their .attention was first attracted by the reflection of flames one of the club windows. “Come on, lads, there is house on fire; let’s have you outside,” somebody shouted, and they ran out and saw the house ablaze, as it seemed, in a matter of seconds. The ladder was climbed, but the blaze and the smoke rendered the task of entering the house by way of the window absolutely impossible. It is understood that the alarm to the Sheffield Fire Brigade was given by Mr. Hinchcliffe, brother-in-law of Mr. Booth, who lives in the end house. No. 46, Irving Street. 

Children Dead When Found. The burning house was entered by the Brigade knocking hole through a wall in the front bedroom of Mr, Hinchcliffe’s house, the firemen gallantly making their way through masses of flame and smoke until they encountered the bodies of the children. The bodies of the three children were found a crouched position in the corner of the bedroom, and that the infant on the bed. The children had, apparently, awakened to find themselves hemmed in by smoke and flames, and had struggled in a group to one corner of the room, where they had died

The inquest was held two days later on Wednesday 7th December 1932 and was reported on in the following days newspaper. It is sad to note that little Sophie died from her burns  

Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 08 December 1932

RUG IGNITED BY SPARK- A verdict that the deaths of the four children at Darnall, Sheffield, on Monday, were caused accidentally by a fire caused by spark from the fire in the living-room of the house igniting the hearthrug, was recorded at the inquest in Sheffield yesterday. The fire occurred at 48, Irving Street, Darnall, Sheffield, and the victims were Caroline Johnson (10); Dorothy Booth (4); Thomas Charles Booth (2), and Sophia Booth (5 months). 
The mother of the children was Mrs. Caroline Booth, wife cf Mr. Thomas Charles Booth, miner, and the eldest child was her first husband’s daughter. Booth, her second husband, was at work the time of the fire. 
Superintendent T. Breaks, chief of the Sheffield Fire Brigade, expressed the opinion that if the door of the bedroom in which the children were trapped had been kept closed, the lives would not have been lost. He said it was his experience in most cases of fatal fires that lives were lost owing to the fact that someone left a door open, allowing heat, if not the fire, to reach the sufferers. Referring to the fact that the children were left alone in the house, the Coroner (Mr. J. Kenyon Parker) said that if the jury started censuring or criticising people who left children alone in a house for short time at night he was afraid they would have to criticise a very large percentage of the people in Sheffield. 

Eric Johnson, aged 11, another of Mrs. Booth’s children, gave his evidence standing on a chair in the well of the court. He said he was asleep alone in the hack bedroom when he was awakened by the smell of smoke. He went, to the top of the stairs and saw his sister, Carrie, who was in her nightgown, crying. Carrie slept in the front bedroom with two of the other children. He went downstairs and fund flames under the table in the front room. The hack door was open, and he went outside and told Mrs. Bower that the house was on fire. Mrs. Bower tried to run upstairs. He went with Mrs. Bower’s sister to try to find a policeman. 
Rescue Attempts. 
Harry Bower, silversmith, 46, Irving Street, Darnall, described how at 10.15 on Monday night Eric Johnson gave the alarm about the fire. Practically the whole of the floor was alight. Witness dashed into the house and tried to close the door between the living room, which was on tire, and the back' kitchen. The stairs were approached from the back kitchen. The witness continued; I dashed up the stairs to the landing and when I got to the top of the stairs there was sudden flash. I was slightly dazed and burned on the left fore-arm. I heard no crying from the bedrooms. I went back to my house and got a small ladder and tried to get in at the back bedroom window. The ladder was a bit too short and I had to give that up because the fiames were by then shooting through the back kitchen window. The heat had broken the glass. By that time the whole house seemed to me like a raging furnace. The Fire Brigade came and took charge and I went home exhausted. 

Later on the firemen brought the four children, now dead, to my house.” The witness said he had known Mrs. Booth for ten years. was aware that the four children were all alone in the house that night, but Mrs. Booth was a very good mother indeed, and she very rarely left the children. 
Went to See Where Fire Was. 
Mrs. Caroline Booth said that Monday night she put the children to bed between 9 and 9.30 At 10 o’clock she heard the fire engine and she and her son Sidney, aged 13, went out to see where the fire was. She left a nice coal fire in the living room and the gas burning. Police-constable Fred Scott said that before the fire brigade arrived commendable efforts were made by four men, Henry Bower, Walter Launders, Samuel Hinchliffe, and George Warburton, rescue the children. Warburton and Launders made unsuccessful attempts to enter the bedroom by climbing a fall pipe, which broke away. They attempted to enter the bedroom by means of a ladder, and both were injured and were treated the Infirmary. 
Superintendent T. Breaks, Chief of the Fire Brigade, said when the brigade arrived flames were passing up the wooden staircase to the first floor. All the windows and doors were either open or burnt away and the flames belched from the front room window many feet into the roadway, making it very difficult to place the ladders in position. 
The Attercliffc section had already pitched a ladder to the back window. He gave instructions to cut hole in the wall of the bedroom of the adjoining house, and this helped to free the front bedroom of the affected house of much heat. 
Coroner, summing up, said he thought the Jury would be satisfied on the evidence, that all those poor children died from shock following extensive burns. There was nothing in the evidence to suggest that they were actually burned to death. He always said that in his opinion a Coroners inquest was not exactly the place to pay compliments anyone, but there did seem to have been a great deal of gallantry displayed by the neighbours in attempting get into the house to rescue the children. 
Although it was the duty of the fire brigade to expose themselves to danger at fires —it was part of their work—yet they did seem to have arrived very quickly after they were called and to have done everything possible, and not for the first time he had heard that their superintendent was one of the first and foremost to try and get into the house in face of the flames. 
Expressing thanks for the commendation. Superintendent Breaks spoke appreciatively the work of the neighbours and of the police, particularly PC. Taylor.

As is the norm, once a verdict had been reached the Coroner released the bodies of the four children for burial

This took place on Saturday 10th December 1932 and was widely reported - this is from reports appeared in the Northern Whig - Monday 12 December 1932 and the Halifax Evening Courier - Monday 12 December 1932

FOUR IN ONE GRAVE. Over 8,000 people were present at the funeral of the four children of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Booth, of Irving-street, Sheffield, who lost their lives in a fire at their home. All four children, whose ages ranged from three months to ten years. were interred in the same grave, the pall-bearers being fellow-Sunday school children and friends. 

The Larne Times dated  Saturday 17 December 1932 carried a fuller report

ATTEMPT TO RUSH CEMETERY MOTHER FAINTS AT GRAVESIDE. Five thousand people, most of whom were women, were present at the funeral in Darnall, Sheffield, on Saturday, of the four child victims of the house fire in Irving Street, Sheffield, last Monday. During the service at the graveside the mother of the victims was assisted the grave by her husband and another member of the family, and, having taken a last look in the grave, she fainted and had to be carried away. . . The four small coffins containing the bodies of the children were borne the grave by Sunday school scholars. The coffins were interred in one grave. After the cortege had passed through the cemetery gates the huge crowd pressed forward in an attempt to gain admittance, hut the police prevented the gates being rushed, and admitted the crowd after the burial. Among those the funeral were Mr. Harry Bowers, who made a gallant attempt to rescue the children.

This is their burial record

BOOTH, Dorothy (Daughter of Thomas, age 4). Died at 48 Irving Street; Buried on December 10, 1932 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister Arthur James.

BOOTH, Sophia (Daughter of Thomas, age 3 months). Died at 48 Irving Street; Buried on December 10, 1932 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield.Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister Arthur James.

BOOTH, Thomas (Labourer, age 5). Died at The Royal Infirmary; Buried on December 14, 1939 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield.Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: 16 Raven Road from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister A J Blade.

BOOTH, Thomas Charles (Son of Thomas, age 2). Died at 48 Irving Street; Buried on December 10, 1932 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield. Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister Arthur James.

JOHNSON, Caroline (Step-Daughter of Thomas, age 10). Died at 48 Irving Street; Buried on December 10, 1932 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield.Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister Arthur James.

STEVENSON, Caroline (Widow, age 85). Died at 40 Greenland Court; Buried on November 21, 1980 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield.Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister S G Woodger.

STEVENSON, James (Labourer, age 66). Died at 3 Claro Road; Buried on July 16, 1962 in Consecrated ground; Grave Number 659, Section D of Darnall Cemetery, Sheffield. Parent or Next of Kin if Available: ~. Remarks: from Sheffield Parish Officiating Minister Alan Ecclestone.

The UK National Register of 1939 shows Thomas and Caroline living at 16 Navan Road on the Manor Estate in Sheffield with the remainder of their family. I have been unable to ascertain what happened to Thomas but Caroline married a James Stevenson in the Narch quarter of 1952 in Sheffield. They were married for ten years before James died at the age of 66 in 1952. Caroline died at the age of 85 

As always, if anyone has any further information on the fire and its aftermath, please contact me.


Sheffield Indexers

Aberdeen Press and Journal dated Tuesday 06 December 1932

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 6th December and 8th December 1932

Northern Whig - Monday 12 December 1932 and the Halifax Evening Courier - Monday 12 December 1932

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This page was last updated on 18/12/21 17:47