Our thanks to the late Ivy Valdes who dicovered this fascinating story. Her research discovered an article in The Times in 1869 telling of a tragedy, which beset Edward, who is Mike’s Great great grandfather. Seven people living in the same house as Edward were killed in a fire, which gutted his house. Among the dead were three of his children aged 9, 7 and 3.
Ivy lived near us in Hove and her Great Grandfather and Mike’s Great Grandfather were cousins. While looking at a book called “With Disastrous Consequences – London Disasters 1830 -1917” she glanced at the index and to her surprise came across a reference to Titheradge. The entry read:
“In October 1869 shopkeeper Mr Titheradge had a large store of fireworks in his confectionery store in the narrow and crowded Moscow Road, Bayswater. Titheradge and his family and a family of lodgers lived in the tiny rooms above the shop front. They were asleep in their bedroom when the firework store blew up and the building was engulfed in flames. Titheradge, his wife and two of his children managed to escape but Elizabeth nine, Emma seven and Edward three died. The lodger, a widow named Mrs Jack, and her three children were also killed in the fire.”
Ivy followed this up by obtaining the relevant newspaper reports of the day from The Times, Illustrated London News and Bayswater Chronicle. The cuttings revealed the owner of this shop as Edward Titheradge, Mike’s Great Great Grandfather. One of the children who escaped from the fire was Henry, then aged ten, who was Mike’s Great grandfather. The story makes interesting reading and illustrates a lot about life in 1869. The family lived at 69 Moscow Road, Bayswater, London. This was a small house with just two bedrooms, a parlour, one downstairs kitchen and a front room converted to a confectioners shop. It housed thirteen people! Four lodgers lived and slept in the front bedroom, Eliza, Edward’s wife, and her three children slept in the back bedroom, Edward and one child slept in the parlour while Henry, their son, and a servant lad slept in the kitchen, on the night of the fire another daughter was sleeping away from home. The shop was lit by a gas light. Among the items for sale were fireworks, as well as “red, blue and green fires for theatres”.
The fire was discovered at five to three in the morning and soon after there was an explosion. The fire station was just 400 yards away but it is claimed by several witnesses that it took 20 minutes for the fire engine to arrive. Perhaps this is hardly surprising when you consider how the fire service worked. First someone had to run to the fire station to raise the alarm. Only one of the firemen slept at the station, he then had to go and wake the others firemen who lodged in nearby houses. The horse then had to be attached to the fire engine before they could even set out. The family of lodgers and the three small children asleep upstairs all died in the fire. The inquest returned a verdict to the effect that the seven persons had died by suffocation in the fire, but how that fire arose there was not sufficient evidence to show. They considered the fire was intensified by the fireworks. The coroner took this verdict as accidental death. This was perhaps very lucky for Edward who was trading in fireworks without a licence. He had owned a licence, but it had expired some time since and he was refused another. If the fireworks had been found to be the origin of the fire he would have faced a charge of manslaughter.
It is interesting that there was no knowledge of this event in Mike’s family, nor in Ivy’s family who are descended from the brother of Edward.
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