Mary Palmer, aged 54, was chief assistant at Hill's pastry Cooks, Confectioners and Restaurant at 91 The High Street, she had worked for the firm for 25 years. On the night of Friday 14th September, she retired to bed early, her room was at the top of the building, leaving 2 younger assistants to have their late supper. The oil lamp exploded and set fire to the building, the alarm was raised by the staff at The George Hotel by telephone to the police station at Landport, the fire engine arrived within 9 minutes, having just got back from an uninportant fire in Middle Street Southsea. By the time they arrived the staircase was alight, the assistants realizing that Mary was still in the building, managed to cut a hole in the ceiling of the room below Mary's, but they were too late, she had been suffocated by the smoke.
[From Portsmouth Times & Naval Gazette Saturday September 22nd 1888]
Further information on Mary Palmer and the plaque dedicated to her in Portsmouth Cathedral can be obtained at the Memorials in Portsmouth website.