CFHS code : ED55
Parish : St Edward
Inscription : In Loving Memory of THOMAS METCALFE ROBINSON d Augst 7th 1888 aged 49 also four sons of the above also AUGUSTA the beloved wife of the above who lost her life through a fire in Trinity Street March 9th 1895 aged 54
Monument : Headstone
Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey
Lat Lon : 52.203125, 0.13723264 – click here for location
Thomas Metcalfe Robinson (1839 – 7 August 1888)
Thomas was the son of Thomas and Sarah Robinson – he was the also grandson of Trimer Robinson who had been a butcher in the town. The family were raised in Cambridge, where his father was a tailor and his mother a college servant. Thomas was baptised at All Saint’s Church on 1st September 1839. In 1861 he was living with his parents and siblings at Sussam’s Yard, just off Bridge Street – on the census Thomas is recorded as a college servant, although it is not stated what his exact job was. He married Augusta Wickham on 25th December 1866 at St Botolph’s Church when he was 27 years old.
They had at least seven sons – four who died in infancy: Trimer Morton [1868-1868] Frank Metcalfe [1870-1922], Gilbert Walter [1871-1942], Thomas Wickham [1873-] and William Henry [1878-1883] plus at least two more sons.
Thomas worked as a curator of the Cavendish Museum 1861/1871], and the family lived at the Porters Lodge on Free School Lane. The Cambridge Independent Press reported in March 1881 that the University Syndicate had decided that his wages were to be raised from £60 to £70 per annum. At that time he was described as ‘porter at the new museums’. He died aged 49 years old at the Porters Lodge, and newspaper reports noted his 22 years service. He left an estate valued at £19, 8s and 1d.
Augusta Robinson [nee Wickham] (January 1841 – 9 March 1895)
Augusta was born in Hemingford Gray, just outside Huntingdon. Her parents were Thomas and Mary Wickham, and her father worked as a letter carrier and baker. Aged 20 Augusta had moved to Cambridge, and was a domestic servant on Scroop Terrace to a University Professor. She was widowed aged 47 years old.
After her husband’s death she became a Lodging house keeper at 18 Trinity Street – she was living there by the 1891 census. She died in a tragic fire on the morning of 9th March which was heavily reported in newspapers of the time. The ground floor of 18 Trinity Street was a tobacconist, whilst Augusta Robinson rented the three floors. A Mr C Gouldsmith rented the rooms on the 1st floor from Augusta – he was an undergraduate at Trinity Hall. On the evening of the 8th March Mr Gouldsmith had been to a fancy dress ball, and returned at midnight, retiring to bed at 2am. The fire started in his rooms on the 1st floor, and he was later seen running around the streets in his nightwear. Witnesses smelt fire around 2.35am, but believed it was from one of the many bakehouses around Trinity Street. It was a PC Hayworth who first raised the alarm at 3.15am. Augusta and her servant Sarah Shallow were trapped in their rooms on the 3rd floor. The flames were mainly engulfing the 1st and 2nd floors, and eye witnesses saw the two women briefly at one of the windows of the top floor before they disappeared and neither were heard of again.
When firemen entered the top rooms around 5.15am both women were dead. Newspapers reported that ‘the contents of Mrs Robinson’s room were not wholly destroyed – the articles farthest from the door were only scorched. On a chair by the bed was found a prayer-book opened at the Evening Prayer, and upon the book lay the keys of the unfortunate lady’. The subsequent inquest recorded a verdict of Accidental Death, and the true source of the fire was never discovered. The fire had escalated through the building via the staircase. There was apparently much ‘conversation’ in the town as to whether the exit escapes could have saved the women. Captain Greef the fire chief argued that Cambridge should have a Central Fire Station. At the time Cambridge seems to have had a semi-formal fire service consisting of 30 men – but on the night only 20-22 were able to come to Trinity Street as the rest were ill. There was also some difficultly as the telephone in the Guildhall was out of order, and it was reported that under different circumstances perhaps the lives of the two women could have been saved. Captain Greef concluded that the women had found the fire on the the first and second floors, and discovering that they could not escape by the staircase they had ran into the spare room, and were overcome with smoke before they could use the window to escape.
Cambridge was clearly shaken by the events, and the date of the funeral was not made public. Nevertheless over a 100 people gathered to see Augusta buried in Mill Road Cemetery, including her 3 living sons.
Source: Ancestry/Newspaper archives.
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