South Yorkshire times, May 26, 1939
Baby’s Cry in Night Saves Two Families
Council House Gutted
Couple Lose Entire Possessions
Standing in the street in a suit of ill-fitting clothes borrowed from a neighbour. His home a black ruin. Every stick and stitch a charred and sodden mess. His family ” farmed out” on kindly neighbours. Desolate—but, happily, not friendless.
This is the situation in which a Wombwell man found himself yesterday morning. During the night his home had been completely burned out. When daylight came he had lost everything but his employment.
Mrs. Foster, with Malcolm, whose cries alarmed the household.
The victim of this calamity was Mr. William Foster, a groundsman employed by the Wombwell U.D.C., of 7, Wright Crescent, Wombwell. At the back of the house it a pathway leading up to the walk in the park. The house is of the semi-detached type belonging to the Wombwell U.D.C. Next door live Mr. and Mrs William Oughton, who rushed with their five children into the street for safety and then did all they possibly could to help their neighbour. By a stroke of good fortune the only casualty in the fire was a canary belonging to Mr. Oughton. The bird was stifled by smoke in his cage and picked up dead.
The occupants of the ill-starred homestead were Mr. and Mrs. Foster and the infant son of their daughter, Mrs. Blackburn. Mr. Foster was sleeping in one room and Mrs. Foster with the baby in another room.
It was the baby who gave the alarm and saved the families in the two adjoining houses. The first intimation the neighbours had that something unusual was happening was when they heard Mrs. Foster screaming. The crying of the baby had disturbed her and, when she realised that there was smoke in the bedroom, she made her way downstairs. The foot of the staircase opened out on the front door with another door on the left leading into the living room. On opening this second door she was met by flames and it was at that moment that her screams awoke the neighbours.
Hearing his wife’s cries, Mr. Foster jumped out of bed and rushed downstairs. Seeing what was happening he ran back upstairs, snatched the baby out of bed, and handed him to his wife who was standing in the street in her nightdress Mr. Foster then ran round to the house next door shouting to Mr. Oughton. “Bill, come on quick, the house is on fire.” Within a few seconds Mr and Mrs. Oughton were in the street” with their five children, all in their, night clothes.
It was quite impossible owing to the fierceness of the flames to get into Mr’, Foster’s house, and all that the neighbours could do was to form a chain of buckets. Mrs. Wade who lives across, the way, set the tap running in her bathroom and filled buckets of water as they’ were handed to her.
Even the plaster on the walls was burnt off. A pitiful object, testifying to, the savage nature of the fire, was the remnant of a piano which Mr. Foster bought for his daughters eight years ago. Only the steel frame with the strings still taut across it remained on the floor.
There was not another article of furniture or clothing that could be recognised as such. Nor is there any insurance for the family.
The burnt out kitchen and (inset) Mr W. Foster
Mr. and Mrs. Foster are left absolutely destitute and are objects of great a sympathy. They have to start and build a home all over again, which is not an easy matter for people past middle age. Mr. Foster, who is known by all the district as a very steady man, receives only a relatively small wage as groundsman of the welfare corner at Broomhill.
As is usual among working class communities, the hand of fellow feeling and sympathy was promptly held out. Standing, a pitiable object in his tightfitting borrowed suit, Mr. Foster obviously found it difficult to suppress his emotion, when Mr. Oughton remarked, “Wombwell is too big to see a man down like this.” And neighbours all agreed. Any effort to help Mr. and Mrs. Foster would undoubtedly meet with a prompt and generous response. One of the first on the scene to offer the comfort of neighbourly sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Foster was Mrs. Collindridge of Thompson Road. wife of Mr. Frank Collindridge, M.P. for Barnsley.
It is impossible to say how the fire started. Mr. Foster told a “Times” reporter that everything was safe and secure when they went to bed at 11 p.m. His wife, however, had been baking and there was a big fire.