Hero of Gleed blaze recalls Spalding school fire drama

GLEED HERO: Pete Nottingham with a copy of the news report about the 1960 Gleed Girls' School fire which he alerted emergency service to while on his milk round.  Photo by Tim Wilson.  SG060218-126TW.
GLEED HERO: Pete Nottingham with a copy of the news report about the 1960 Gleed Girls' School fire which he alerted emergency service to while on his milk round. Photo by Tim Wilson. SG060218-126TW.
  • How 600 students got an ‘unexpected day’s holiday’ in July 1960
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Students of a certain age may well have retired Spalding ambulanceman Pete Nottingham (79) to thank for saving their schoolwork from certain destruction.

Pete, of Carrington Road, was in the right place at the right time to see smoke rising towards the roof of the former Gleed Girls’ School, in Neville Avenue, during his milk round nearly 60 years ago.

I thought I was dreaming but I went up to the top of the road where a phone box was and called the fire brigade

Pete Nottingham, of Spalding

A few days before his birthday on Monday, Pete decided to dig out an album containing photographs and other momentos of his life which is when he found a newspaper cutting which described the drama of that near-disastrous day from July 1960.

Pete said: “I’d been in the RAF from 1958 until 1960 and when I came out, I went to work as a milkman for Pinchbeck Dairies, delivering bottles of milk to shops and schools.

“On the day of the fire, I was a bit early in getting to the school at about 7am when I looked in the back window and could see smoke rising up to the roof.

“I thought I was dreaming but I went up to the top of the road where a phone box was and called the fire brigade.

“They came very quickly and I waited a little while to find out how things were at the school.

“A little later, one of the firemen said ‘another ten minutes and the whole school would have been on fire’ because of the asbestos sheets there”.

Pete, who has two children, four grandchildren and a step-grandchild with his wife Gill, claimed that the school never thanked him for helping to save arts and crafts on display there at the time from going up in flames.

He said: “I couldn’t have done anymore.”

Pete Nottingham was just 21 when our sister newspaper, the Lincolnshire Free Press, described how his quick thinking saved Gleed Girls’ School from destruction.

A report about the fire said: “It caused severe damage to the cloakroom wing, about 1,000sq ft of roofing was reduced to a blackened, charred mass and there was a huge, gaping hole.

“For the 600 girls of the school, it meant an unexpected day’s holiday.”

Pete said: “I’m sure there are a lot of people who were at the Gleed at the time and they’ll remember it.”

Do you remember the Gleed fire? Email your letters to jeremy.ransome@iliffepublishing.co.uk

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