'Private but lovely' elderly couple died when raging inferno engulfed their 17th century Sheffield home

Police at the scene in Spout Lane, Stannington.
Police at the scene in Spout Lane, Stannington.

A 'private but lovely' elderly couple died when a raging inferno swept through the historic 17th century farmhouse they had lovingly restored.

Leonard and Freda Ewing, both aged in their 90s, were killed when a blaze ripped through their Grade II listed home at Spout House in Stannington during the early hours of the morning last November.

Spout House in Stannington during the fire.

Spout House in Stannington during the fire.

They had lived in the property – which is believed to date back to the 1670s - for several decades and had restored it when they first moved in.

However both had suffered health problems of late and neighbours described how they often left papers stacked high in the kitchen.

An inquest in Sheffield today heard how the cooker had been left on one night and ignited the papers which quickly engulfed the largely timber property.

Family members paid tribute to the 'private but lovely' couple during the hearing.

Mr Ewing's nephew Roger told how the 95-year-old was a conscientious objector during the Second World War, serving as an ambulance driver, and later worked for the Royal Mint and steel companies in Sheffield.

He added: "He was a one of a kind. Very intelligent and academically inclined. He was a private person but very interested in preserving old buildings."

He told how Spout House had been purchased by the council in the 1960s and the land was earmarked for housing.

But Mr Ewing convinced the authority to let them restore it and they moved in, later managing to get the building Grade II listed.

Linda Boettcher, Mrs Ewing's niece, added: "She was always so lovely and happy."

A visiting neighbour, Rosanne Ibbotson, told the inquest she noticed papers piled high in the "cluttered kitchen" in the days before the fire.

She added that due to a range of health problems limiting their mobility, Mr Ewing lived largely downstairs whereas Mrs Ewing, aged 93, spent most of her time upstairs.

Another neighbour raised the alarm just after 3am on November 7 last year after noticing flames coming from the roof of the property.

Firefighters from three stations battled the blaze for several hours but the couple's bodies were found inside.

Fire investigator Andrew Strelczenie said a cooking hob had been left on and ignited some paper which spread throughout.

Pathologist Dr Julian Burton said both died from 'inhalation of fire gases' while heart problems were contributing factors.

Assistant coroner Stephen Eccleston recorded a conclusion of accidental death.