Fire at the Nook Yard 1938

Fire at Nook Yard 1938

An article by Sharon Grey and Michael Tedd

Loughborough Library Volunteers were told by a visitor to their stand, at the Century of Stories Event Day at Anstey Library on 25th January 2017, a family story about an ancestor,  John Heggs who spoke  about a lady he knew who lived in Nook Yard who died in a fire in the 1930s.  Very little has been written down about the incident, but after research by the Volunteers and Michael Tedd,  local Anstey historian, we have pieced together the story.

Anstey Nook (ca 1908), Anstey Millennium Collection no. 504, curtesy of Des Bates

There was indeed a fire at Nook Yard, (35 The Nook) in March 1938.  It was reported in the Lincolnshire Echo on 21st March 1938.  The residents at the time were Mary Ann Smith who resided there with her six cats and the other resident John Heggs.  Mary Ann whose maiden name was Cooke had lived in Anstey since she was born in 1871.  Her family moved to Anstey from Cropston sometime in the 1860s.  Her father George and mother Emily together with her brothers George, John and William lived at 5 Poplar Terrace, Church Lane on the 1881 Census.  Her father was an agricultural labourer but all her brothers were in the shoe trade.    Mary Ann married Richard Smith at St Mary’s Anstey on 24th September 1888.

By the 1891 census the couple lived in Church Lane and had two children Amos and Emily, by  1901 another child Harriet had been born and they were living on Cropston Road.  In 1911 Polly and the two girls were living on Bradgate Road in Anstey, and the father was living in Rothley.   Both girls were shoe machinists.  The Electoral rolls note that Mary Ann lived at 35 The Nook from on or before 1928 to 1937, she was presumably a widow when she moved there,  as no mention of her husband is made.

John Heggs was the other resident at Nook Yard at the time of the fire, he was born at Desford in 1855.  John Heggs married Sarah Ann Cambers at Woodhouse Eaves on 5th July 1875, by the 1881 census they were living at Charley Hall Cottages in Charley with two daughters Eliza Ann and Kate.  By 1891 John Heggs’ family seem to have split up and he became hard to trace for a few years after that but the Electoral register noted him living at 35 The Nook from 1924 to 1937, we can only presume by this time he was a widower as his wife is not noted in the records.   John  Heggs moved to 35 The Nook  four years before Mary Ann Smith.  Their relationship is not mentioned anywhere in the records but she could have been a housekeeper.  She was known to have had six cats at the time of the fire and was some 15 years younger than John Heggs.  Mary Ann Smith was commonly known as Polly.

The description of the fire and how it started is lost, but details of the Fire Brigade carrying her body out of the cottage still sitting in her chair were remembered by Sid Smith when interviewed in 1987. The late Colin Grimes, in 2011, recalled that the six cats did not survive either.   Mary Ann Smith was buried on 23rd March 1938 aged 68 in grave 54 of the new section.  Her grave was purchased by Emily Ball probably her daughter.   John Heggs lived a few years more and died aged 87 he was buried on 27th January 1942 in grave number 100 in the new section of the cemetery,  his grave was purchased by Eliza Ann Mee his daughter.


Michael Tedd, Anstey Local Historian

Loughborough Library Local History Volunteers

Anstey Library Volunteers

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