Chatham Standard, Tuesday 25th January, 1955 (p.1)
House roof caves in
GILLINGHAM FAMILY ESCAPE UNHURT
An elderly Gillingham couple and their two sons escaped injury early on Saturday morning then the roof of their 200-years-old terraced house, No. 30 Westcourt-street, Brompton, caved in. Sixty-five-years-old Mr. Ernest Brown and his invalid wife, Ada Mary, aged 62, were lying awake in the front downstairs bedroom at 4.15 a.m., when they heard a noise
“which sounded like hail.”
“NOISE LIKE A BOMB”
“Then,” said Mrs. Brown, who is mother of 12 children, “we heard two load cracks followed by a noise like a bomb. The house shook and a beam crashed against our bedroom window, scattering glass all over the bed and floor. “My two grown-up sons, Ronald and John, were asleep in the back upstairs bedroom at the time, but fortunately it was the front of the house which was most affected.
“We have been trying to get other accommodation for about three years now and we knew the house was not too safe. Unfortunately, we have not been offered the accommodation we would like – at a cheap rent and in Brompton.”
Next door neighbour, Mrs. Kathleen Levy and her husband were asleep upstairs, when they
were awakened by the cracks which were followed by “a rushing noise.”
Mrs. Levy rushed to the telephone to give the alarm. For the time being her three young children will stay with friends until they are told the house is safe.
On Saturday Mr. and Mrs. Brown said that they would refuse to move during the week-end. Much of their furniture upstairs had already been moved in to the cellar in case an emergency such as this arose, but they did not feel like moving everything at such short notice. Mr. Brown declared that he would stay in the downstairs part of the house.
Theory why the roof collapsed is that the heavy snow, followed by a quick thaw and then frost, weakened the brickwork and put extra strain on the beams and rafters.