Alice Denman (1875 - 1902) and Arthur Regelous (1877 - 1902) both died in a fire that also claimed the lives of five others, four of them Alice Denman's young children.
Their memorial plaque in Postman's Park reads: "Arthur Regelous, Carman, ("Little Peter") Aged 25, Who, With Alice Maud Denman, Aged 27, Died In Trying To Save Her Children From A Burning House In Bethnal Green. April 20 1902."
The Daily News carried a full account of the tragedy in its edition of Monday 21s April 1902:-
"A terrible fire, remarkable for the fierceness with which it burnt itself out, and for its heavy death toll, broke out in a ticket writer's establishment in Hackney-road about midnight on Saturday.
At 12.05 a.m. fireman were called by a street alarm to Hackney-road; the message was telephoned a few minutes later to the headquarters of the district its Commercial-road, E . and very soon a whole host of firemen with steamers, hose-reels, escapes, end all the paraphernalia of a modern fire brigade kept arriving at the scene of the outbreak.
The men found a three-storey building, occupied on the ground floor as a ticketwriter's establishment, and above as a dwelling, well ablaze.
Hydrants were hastily got to work, and with the reinforcements of engines that were constantly arriving from Stepney, Bow, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and other stations in the vicinity, large volumes of water were poured into the fierce flames.
All the efforts of the firemen, however, seemed to make no impression, and presently the building looked like a raging furnace.
Situated in the centre of a densely-populated neighbourhood, and it being Saturday night, the conflagration caused a large crowd to assemble, and the greatest excitement prevailed.
A large force of police were requisitioned to keep the crowd within bounds.
The excitement grew into almost frenzy when it became known that the occupants of the rooms above the shop had neither been seen nor heard of since the outbreak, and it vas feared that they were still within the building.
The shrieks and screams of women in the crowd when this rumour spread added to the general distress.
By half past-twelve the building was literally engulfed in flames, but even then the authorities of the brigade, on learning of the probability of there being some persons in the place, redoubled their energies, and concentrated their whole strength, and the utilisation of every available appliance, to so far subdue the conflagration as to permit an entry to the premises for the purpose of an attempt at rescue.
All their efforts, however, failed to make any substantial impression, and anxious as the members of the brigade were for an opportunity to make the attempt, it was recognised that, under the circumstances, it would be sheer madness to do so.
An enormous quantity of water was kept pouring on the structure, and efforts directed towards the prevention of the spreading of the flames in other directions. Fortunately, there was no wind, and efforts in the latter direction were successful.
Under the constant attention of the brigade, the fire subsequently subsided, almost as suddenly as it had burst forth into fury, and shortly before one o'clock it became possible to get into what was left of the building, and to search among the debris to ascertain if there were anything beyond mere rumour in the suggestion that there were persons on the premises at the time of the outbreak.
Their search soon confirmed the terrible truth, for within a few minutes the charred remains of three persons were discovered. These were carefully placed in canvas coverings, and brought out for conveyance to the mortuary.
The search was continued, and the searchers were horrified to discover further bodies, these being of little children.
Four more bodies, seven in all, were taken out and conveyed to the mortuary.
At one o'clock the official stop order was telephoned to headquarters, the message intimating that the house of eight rooms and ticket-writer's shop had been burnt out, and that the roof was off.
The names of the victims are:-
Alice Maud Denman, aged 25.
Alice Maud Denman, aged 8.
Charles Denman, aged 6.
Ethel Denman, aged 4.
Winifred Denman, aged 3 months.
Alice Briggs, aged 26.
Peter Regolous (age unknown).
The premises in which the fire occurred consist of a private house with a projecting shop built over what was originally the front garden, thus precluding all possible chance of rescuing the inmates by means of the fire escape, the shop in question not permitting the ladder to be pitched against the front of the house.
It appears that at the time of the outbreak the house was occupied by Mrs. Denman, her six children, and a young woman lodger.
On the alarm being given Mrs. Denman at once thought of her children, who were then asleep in bed, and rushing upstairs succeeded in bringing down two of them (girls).
Having placed them in safety she returned for the others.
The fire by this time had made great headway, enveloping the front shop and the hall passage running alongside, and it is presumed that the unfortunate woman was either overcome by the smoke or her retreat was cut off, for nothing further was seen of her.
The police and firemen on duty also made heroic efforts to rescue the unfortunate inmates, but were frustrated by the flames bursting out of the fanlight over the shop, thus cutting off all hope of reaching the windows of the doomed house.
The remains of the man found on the burned premises have been identified as those of Arthur Regelous, aged 24. of 213, Queen's-buildings, Bethnal Green.
He was a neighbour, and it is presumed that he rushed into the burning building to help in the work of rescue, but perished in his gallant endeavour.
Mr. Denman was not at home at the time of the fire, not having completed his day's work.
When he arrived and was informed of his bereavement the unfortunate man was stricken down with the terrible news.
The seven bodies of the victims are now in the mortuary awaiting the inquest."
Ernest Angus Rogers, the owner of the shop in which the fire began, told a reporter from The Globe how it had started.
His account was published in the newspaper's edition of Monday 21st April 1902:-
"Mr. Rogers, describing the cause of the out-break, said "My shop was lighted with lamps.
I was lifting one of the lamps - a central draught lamp - out of its hanging socket, to blow it out, and in doing this had to tilt it a little on one side. The flame shot up, and the part of the lamp round the burner was so hot that I could hardly get hold of it. I held it until I had got off the box I was standing on, and then it fell to the floor, and in an instant the oil seemed to pour out.
I threw some things over the lamp itself, but the oil jumped and burst into flame, and the place began to blaze up.
I saw there was no stopping it, so I ran to the shop door, which stood open, and shouted "Fire! Fire!" Then I ran back to Mrs. Denman's parlour and cried, "The shop's on fire, save the children."
Mrs. Denman cried, "Oh, my children, save my children, help be to save my children!"
I ran upstairs - the house was in darkness - and went into the back room and found one of the little ones in bed. I carried him into the front room, got out of the window on to the flat top of the shop, and ran along the tops of the next few shops shouting.
A neighbour came out on to the leads, and, having given the little one to him, I got back through the window.
The house was so full of smoke that I could not open my mouth. I stumbled against Mrs. Denman in the darkness, and she murmured something about the window.
I got hold of another child and was getting out of the window with her when, suddenly. a skylight in the shop roof burst, and the flame and smoke shot up in front of me.
I got out somehow with the child, although I nearly fell through the skylight, and going along the leads I got the child safe into another house.
Then I fainted, and when I came round after a time some of the people said Mrs. Denman and the children were saved."
The Globe also contained the following report from the Denman's maid:-
"Lilian Riley, a domestic servant in the employ of Mrs. Denman, interviewed by the Daily Express, said:-
Just before midnight I told my mistress that the children would want something for supper, and at her suggestion I went out to buy some biscuits.
As I passed down the passage to the street I looked into the shop and saw Mr. Rogers tying up some parcels.
All was right then; and having bought the biscuits I was returning home when someone called out to me, "Lil, get home quickly; the place is all on fire."
I ran into the passage, and tried to pass upstairs, but a cloud of burning smoke stopped me at the foot.
Looking up towards what we called the shop landing I saw through the smoke Mrs. Denman clasping in her arms the baby.
Mrs. Denman looked down at me and said, in a frantic, despairing way, "Lil, come to me quickly and help, or my dear children will be burned to death. Come, Lil, there's rood girl, or I shall lose them."
I made a step forward, but the fire was so fierce that I could not get to the stairs.
Still, through the smoke I could see her plainly holding the little one to her, and calling to me.
I know I cried as I saw her, and I said, "Oh, Mrs. Denman. I cannot come through the fire. My dear mistress. what shall we do?"
As I hesitated for a moment I saw her, holding the baby to her bosom, rush upstairs to the second floor, where Alice. Charlie, and Ethel were sleeping.
That was the last time I saw her alive.
Then I saw her when the firemen brought her body and those of the little ones out later in the morning."
The Globe carried a report on the inquest into the deaths of the victims on Tuesday 22nd April 1902:-
"To-day, at the Bethnal Green Coroner's Court, Dr. Wynn Westcott opened an inquiry into the circumstances attending the death of Alice Maud Denman, 25 years of age, Alice Maud Denman (8), Charles Denman (5), Ethel Denman (3), Winifred Daisy Denman (3 months), Alice Biggs (26), a lodger, and Peter Regelous (24), who Lost their lives during the disastrous fire which occurred on the premises of Messrs. Roger. Brothers, ticket writers, 423, Hackney-road early on Sunday morning last.
Great interest was manifested in the inquiry, the court being crowded and a large number of persons assembling outside.
The Coroner, in opening the proceedings, said he had great pleasure in publicly announcing that the Mayor of Bethnal Green was desirous of establishing a fund for the benefit of the unfortunate people who had suffered from the fire. He hoped there would be a liberal response to this appeal.
It was a terrible case.
The premises that were burned were apparently largely composed of wood, and were uninsured. For this reason the salvage corps did not follow the fire brigade, and there was consequently a difficulty in tracing the lamp which was thought to have exploded and set fire to the premises.
He held a very strong opinion as to the dangerous nature of some of the cheap lamps and oils retailed to the public, and had communicated with a London County Council official with a view to his attending and giving evidence on this point.
Plans of the building having been put in, and evidence of identification having been given, a number of witnesses were called to speak of how the fire originated and its subsequent progress.
Charles Denman, a cheesemonger's assistant, said he had rented the premises for nine years, but had no interest in the shop, which projected in front. He paid 8s. weekly for the premises, unfurnished, and he estimated the value of his furniture at £150.
In addition to his wife and four children, who are dead, he had two children living.
At the time of the fire witness was away from home at work.
Ernest Angus Rogers, ticket writer, who rented the shop, said he was at work there until nearly midnight on Saturday. At the time of the fire witness had two lamps on a bar below the ceiling, and on Saturday night these were burning.
Witness got on a box to reach one of them down, and was compelled to tilt it slightly when a flame shot up, and the lamp became very hot. Witness had to drop it, and the oil running over the floor and becoming ignited the flames spread with terrible rapidity.
At that time Mrs. Denman, with her baby, was in the shop parlour.
When told that the place was on fire she cried, "Save my children."
Witness ran into the bedroom and felt a child's head on one of the beds. He got the child out through a window, and although nearly suffocated, managed to rescue a second child.
Thomas Nunan, petroleum lamps inspector under the L.C.C. said the oil used in this case was a Russian oil, and a sample of it tested yesterday flashed at 88 deg. In his opinion no oil should be used for illuminating purposes that had not a flash point of 100 deg.
The Coroner: There is certainly no mystery now as to how this terrible calamity happened.
Superintendent Egerton, of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, said the fire alarm was received at Bethnal Green Station at one minute after midnight, and four minutes later the brigade were on the spot.
The place was then burning from top to bottom. It was like a furnace, the flames coming through the roof and windows, and for a time it was absolutely impossible for the firemen to enter the premises.
Witness described the subsequent finding of the bodies of the deceased, mentioning that the man Regelous, who had gallantly run to the rescue, was apparently just in the act of escaping when he was overcome.
Replying to the Coroner, witness said the premises were of such an inflammable construction that he was convinced no company would have taken the risk of insuring them.
After further evidence, the jury returned a verdict of accidental death, adding a rider to the effect that they considered the witness Rogers to blame for the manner in which he handled the lamp, and had been in the habit of extinguishing the two lamps, used on his premises.
They were further of opinion that an Act should be passed prohibiting the sale of cheap low-flash oils, and they commended the conduct of the fire brigade, and of the deceased man Regelous, who sacrificed his life in an heroic attempt to rescue others."
The funeral of Arthur Regelous took place on Saturday 26th April 1902. The Essex Newsman carried the following report on it on Saturday 3rd May 1902 under the above headline. The brief report read:-
"The remains of Arthur William Regelous, who lost his life in the fire at Hackney, were laid to rest a Chingford Cemetery on Saturday.
The coffin bore the inscription, "In Loving Memory of a Hero, Arthur William Regelous, who lost his life in the Hackney-road fire by trying to save others, on April 20, 1902. Aged twenty-four years."
There was a large attendance at the funeral."
Tow days later, on Monday 28th April 1902, the funeral of Alice Denman and her children took place, and was reported in the Daily News the next morning:-
"A great crowd assembled yesterday afternoon in Hackney-road on the occasion of the funeral of Mrs. Denman and her four children, who lost their lives in the fire at No. 423 in that thoroughfare.
The crowd centred round 452, Hackney-road, the house of Mrs. Denman's brother, from which the procession was arranged to start.
Those who had assembled consisted mainly of women, who showed every mark of sympathy with the family of the dead woman and her children.
Mrs Denman's coffin, covered with white flowers, was carried in a four-horsed open hearse with black plumes, while the coffins of her babes, surrounded with wreaths of white flowers and violets, were carried in a similar car decked with white plumes.
The services of a dozen policemen, and one mounted man, were necessary to clear a way for the procession through the dense throng."
Alice and her children were laid to rest in Abney Park Cemetery.