020 8530-8443Monday to Friday 10.30am to 4.30pm



The memorial plaque to Henry James Bristow.


Henry James Bristow (1882 - 1890) was universally hailed as "A Hero of Eight Year" in the aftermath of his act of bravery that saved the life of his sister, but which cost him his own life.

His plaque in Postman's Park reads "Henry James Bristow, Aged Eight - At Walthamstow On December 30 1890 - Saved His Little Sister's Life By Tearing Off Her Flaming Clothes But Caught Fire Himself And Died Of Burns And Shock."


On Thursday the 8th of January 1891, under the above headline, the Nottingham Evening Post published the following article about the tragedy:-

"Yesterday Dr. Macdonald, M.P., coroner for East London, received information of the death of Henry James Bristow, aged eight years.

On the 3Oth of last month the mother left the deceased at home to look after his little sister, aged three years.

On returning in about twenty minutes she heard loud screams, and on rushing into the room found the floor ablaze.

The deceased was quite naked and severely burnt, and the clothes of the younger child were still shouldering.

The deceased was removed to the hospital, where he expired after suffering great agony on Tuesday.

On the way to the hospital the poor little fellow told his mother that his sister pulled the lamp off the mantelpiece, and it broke, the oil ran along the floor into the fireplace, and immediately became ignited and set fire to his sister's clothes.

He stripped his own clothes off, wrapped his sister in them, and then threw some water over her and got the flames out, and put her on the table just as the mother returned.

The younger child is in a critical condition, and in is feared that she will not recover."


In its issue of Monday 12th January 1891, The Aberdeen Evening Express featured a more detailed article about the tragedy, and revealed that, despite the initial prognosis, the younger sister was making good progress, and was out of danger:-


"An inquest was held by Dr. Macdonald into the circumstances attending the death of Henry James Bristow, aged eight, the son of a cabinetmaker, residing at 7 Hawkesley Terrace, Walthamstow.

Jessie Bristow, the mother, stated that on Tuesday week she left her house about five o'clock to go on an errand, returning a little before six o'clock.

She had left the deceased and his sister, aged three years, alone in the room.

On her return she found that both children had been burned.

The deceased said his sister had climbed on to a chair to reach a small paraffin lamp which hung over the mantelpiece, and in doing so upset it.

Her clothes caught fire, and he tore them off her, and laid her on the bed; but while lifting her, his clothes became ignited, and it took him a long time to tear them off. He managed, however, to do so, and when witness entered the room she found him very much burnt.

She conveyed him to the German Hospital in a cab.

The girl is alive and doing well.

The Coroner: It is a sad case. The little fellow was quite a hero.

The mother: He did his best to save his sister.

Mr F. Lacher, house surgeon, stated that deceased was admitted to the hospital suffering from severe burns over the arms, neck. chest, abdomen, and legs. He never recovered from the shock.

The jury returned - verdict of accidental death."


The plaque to Henry James Bristow was one of a batch of eight that were unveiled on 13th December 1905, and it may have been this impending unveiling - or at least newspaper coverage of it - that inspired Lillie Naylor, of 1, Tunnel Cottages, Grosmont, to write the following letter - in which she appears to have been a little confused as to when the tragedy had actually occurred - to The Whitby Gazette, which published it on Friday 11th of August 1905:-

"A hero of eight is twice a hero, as ever one will admit who has read the report of the inquest upon Henry James Bristow, aged eight, who recently died in the London German Hospital.

He had been left at home, in his mother's absence, with his sister, aged three. The little girl mounted a chair to reach a lamp, which she upset, her clothes catching fire.

The boy instantly tore off her clothes, and she escaped with a rather severe burning; but the boys own clothes caught fire, and, although he tore them off as best he could, he was so badly burned that, after lingering some time at the hospital, he died.

The boy had in him the stuff of a heroic man.

Most children of eight would have run away screaming when they saw the flames; and, indeed, such coolness is not always found in grown-up people."