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Article from Northants Evening Telegraph 14 March 1957

Alarm Raised by Passer-by

Jennifer Cooper
The newspaper photo of Jennifer Cooper accompaning
this article


Firemen, drivers and workmen laboured for two hours last night driving and pulling out burning lorries from a blazing garage at Burton Latimer.

If it had not been for the prompt action of a doctor's receptionist in giving the alarm the building would have exploded. For underneath is a 500-gallon petrol storage tank feeding a petrol pump in the garage.

The garage belongs to Thomas E Gray and Co Ltd the refractory manufacturers and stands off Polwell Lane, Burton Latimer not far from the Weetabix works.

The fire was spotted at about 10.15 pm by Miss J Cooper, receptionist to Dr E Deutsch and Dr D Vincent Summers of Kettering who was riding to her home at 20 Bridle Road, Burton Latimer on her motor-scooter after working late.


She ran into a dense cloud of smoke, but could not see where it was coming from. She hurried home, collected her father and returned to the scene.

Then they saw flames coming from the roof of the garage and Miss Cooper rode to warn Mr J Clulow, manager of the firm's Isebrook Works who lives in Polwell Lane. The fire service was called.

Mr Clulow went to the garage, which houses eight lorries and a van. He opened the door and the smouldering roof burst into flame. He slammed it shut and the flames died down a little.


Powerless to do anything by himself, the manager had to stand by and watch the fire slowly spreading. However, he did call out six of his drivers and workmen to help with salvage work.

Firemen with appliances from Burton Latimer, Kettering and Wellingborough fought the outbreak for about four hours. They used water from the firm's swimming bath nearby.

Swimming Bath showing Gray's garage in background
Swimming Bath showing Gray's garage in background

The fire started at the opposite end of the building to the petrol tank and the flames were brought under control before reaching it.

Battling against blinding smoke and sparks flying in all directions, firemen and drivers drove out seven lorries, some of them ablaze.


Another badly damaged lorry was manhandled out of the building. A van was also slightly damaged. Mr Clulow commented today, "They did a great job and worked like slaves"

One of the chief losses was a vehicle tyre store which was burnt out. The roof of the garage was badly damaged.

Two of the firm's directors, Mr Robin Gray, who drove from Bedford, and Mr John Gray, Barton Seagrave, were called to the scene.

Northamptonshire Fire Service officials were working today on these lines of inquiry in trying to find out how the outbreak started:

1 A possibility that the fire started in the roof by a cause not yet known.

2 A possibilty of a short circuit in the wiring in one of the vehicles.

The cost of the damage is not yet known.

Mr Clulow said "The fire could have been very much worse had it not been for the prompt action of Miss Cooper. The firm is most grateful to her"

Click here to read about Thomas E Gray's business as one of Burton Latimer's quarrying companies
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