A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 46




A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 46

To resume our tale ……

A passer-by told the newspapers “There were about 20 of us and we were trying to rescue the women. Someone kicked open the door of the shop and tried to get up the stairs. But the room above the shop was a mass of flames. We got a ladder, and the young woman, in her pyjamas, climbed down. The mother tried to get out of the window, but couldn’t so she went back into the room”.

It turned out that Mrs Hunt was not able to get through the tiny attic window. The fire had spread up the staircase.

When the Fire Brigade arrived, the firemen took over, and beat a way through the flames and smoke to bring out Mrs Hunt, who was taken to the General Hospital. Medical evidence was that Mrs Hunt had burns involving her whole body.

The first-floor room was almost destroyed. Fire appears to have broken out in here, trapping the women in the attic above, and the only way out was by the narrow stairway.

A spokesman from the Birmingham Fire Brigade, said “It was impossible to get up the bedroom stairs owing to the heat. Eventually the old lady was found on the bed.”

He continued, “It is a tragic thing, that untrained people open doors and windows and thus make a flue for the fire. Had the door been closed and kept closed, there would have been quite a possibility of saving Mrs Hunt.”

You’d think that John Hunt would close his business after loss of his mother, but he continued to run his newsagent’s shop until 1945 when it was taken over by the Jewish refugee Mannie Gorfunkle who we have already met.

Let us make our way down the final flight of stairs – so keep a watch out as here there are as many as three opportunities to bang your head!

57 Hurst Street in May 1939 after the fire – press cutting