Two sisters who survived a devastating fire at their family home in 1927 have been reunited with the only item in the house to escape the flames – a small desk bureau.
As young children, Grace Alton and Vera Peek were asleep in their beds with their six brothers and sisters at their terraced home at Brighton Street, Landport, Portsmouth when it caught fire,
At 10.30pm on April 30, 1927, their father, Alfred Jeffrey, had smelled smoke and gone downstairs to investigate. He found the kitchen ablaze with the fire blocking any means of escape.
He and wife Elsie quickly gathered their eight children into their bedroom, closed the door to stop the smoke and called to neighbours from the window.
One by one, he dropped the children into the arms of neighbours in the street below before lowering and dropping his pregnant wife the same way.
Before he made his escape, he grabbed a small writing bureau, which held family papers, then jumped.
Within minutes the house and contents were gone, leaving the family with just their night-clothes and the bureau to their name.
One of the other sisters that night was Gladys, whose son, Peter Seidenstucker, had been told of the fire a few years ago and decided to play detective.
Many hours spent at the library scanning old copies of The Evening News proved successful when he managed to find a report of the fire in which the Fire Superintendent praised the father for his actions.
Armed with the date of the fire and the family tree, Peter questioned his two aunts, Grace and Vera, who now live in Southsea and Copnor respectively, and their two surviving brothers, Alan and Peter – who were born later – about the fire and the bureau. He traced it to the widow of another of the brothers who was about to dispose of it due to an impending house move.
Peter, of Paignton Avenue, Copnor, has retained the bureau, which now holds a copy of the article and the family tree, and intends to pass it down the bloodline of the family as a treasured heirloom.
Brighton Street has disappeared and been replaced by Petersfield House in St Faith’s Road, close to Tesco in Crasswell Street.
The Jefferys were all Portsmouth born-and-bred and totalled 13 brothers and sisters, of which four survive.