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On the morning of February 10 1965 a fire claimed the lives of three young children in Lower Broughton, making it one of the blackest days in Salford's recent history.

History With Flynn

The blaze started at around 8.30am when flames erupted from a terraced house on Myrtle Street. 

An inquest heard how the homeowner Mrs Cotgrave had awoken that morning an hour earlier and put some coal on the fire. She had not used a metal fireguard because the fire was still low. 

Some of her eight children were awake and others were still in bed at this time. 

Shortly after 8am, 14-year-old Leo took his four-year-old sister Patricia to Greengate Nursery School, while Anthony, 6, was sent upstairs to get his brother Christoper, 9, and sister Alma, 7. 

Also upstairs was the oldest Cotgrave child, 16-year-old Veronica. 

Mrs Cotgrave went into the scullery to make a cup of tea and was distracted by her three-year-old son Billy who was crying on a camp bed, and her three-month-old baby son Paul. 

When she returned to the living room she found the ceiling a mass of flames with burning pieces of plaster and paper falling onto the floor. 

She screamed for the children upstairs to come down at once, then grabbed Billy and Paul and took them to a neighbour's for safety. 

Tragically the flames were so intense and the smoke so thick that by the time she returned she was not able to get into the house, and she was seen crying and screaming in the street. 

Neighbours rushed in to help, including John Gough, who lived a few doors away. He raced around to the back of the house and put a ladder against the upstairs bedroom window, attempting to catch Veronica as she tried to climb from the smoke-logged room, but she slipped and fell onto the scullery roof. She escaped with her life but suffered burns and cuts to her arms. 

Another neighbour Robert Gemmell tried climbing up the drainpipe at the front of the house in an attempt to rescue the trapped children but was beaten back by the smoke and flames. 

Salford fire brigade arrived shortly afterwards and found flames shooting through the front door and windows, because the door was open and windows smashed, the flames spread quickly through the house making it an inferno. 

They turned water jets onto the staircase and firemen wearing breathing apparatus made their way into the house. 

They found two children unconscious in the back room and another child in the front bedroom also unconscious 

Anthony, Christoper and Alma were taken outside where they were given first aid and the kiss of life; their father George Cotgrave rushed home from work when he heard the news, just in time to see the three being brought out of the blazing house. 

At first there seemed some signs of recovery but sadly all three children were pronounced dead at arrival at the hospital. 

Mrs Cotgrave was also taken to nearby Salford Royal Hospital for treatment and sedation and later questioned about the cause of the fire. 

The inquest was held on Wednesday 24 February where the Assistant Coroner Mr L Gorodkin who started by stating that their was no negligence by Mrs Gotgrave and the deaths were due to sheer accident. 

The coroner recorded accidental death verdicts on all three children, with cause of death being smoke inhalation. 

He praised the bravery of the neighbours who attempted to rescue the children and mentioned the bravery of Firemen Albert Shaw and Raymond Wilde for entering the smoke filled house. 

Mr Gorodkin told the inquest that it would be impossible to say how the fire started because of the extensive damage to the house. 

It was thought that the fire had started when the clothes drying in the kitchen suddenly caught alight, causing this terrible tragedy, but this could never be proved. 

The house was shortly demolished afterwards as part of the Greengate slum clearance problem, sadly too late for the Cotgrave children who perished in the blaze.

This article first appeared on SalfordOnline on the 10th of Feb 2015, it is republished here thanks to an agreement twice as complicated as Brexit and involving free tea bags with Tony Flynn.

Tony Flynn

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