“RARELY has a more sensational story been heard,” said The Northern Echo 110 years ago.

Mrs Fanny Samuelson, 30, was having a petroleum hairwash applied to her long, luxuriant locks at a fashionable continental hairdressers overlooking Hyde Park in London, when the proprietor, a “swarthy little Frenchman”, who was outside the salon, “heard a noise like ‘boom’”…

The swarthy Frenchman, said the Echo, described the boom with a "dramatic gesture".

Three weeks ago, I retreated from the mad world of Brexit to tell the 1907 story of Miss Helenora Catherine Horn-Elphinstone-Dalrymple, who had been killed by inhaling toxic fumes from her tetrachloride shampoo. Richard Collier then kindly got in touch to draw my attention to the even more remarkable story of Fanny, the wife of a Middlesbrough ironfounder, who was burned by her own beauty in 1897.

She had married Francis Samuelson, son of Sir Bernhard, in 1888 and they began married life at Sockburn Hall, on the edge of Darlington, while Breckenbrough Hall, on the A167 south of Northallerton, was built for them for £40,000 (£5m in today’s prices).

By 1897, they were living in Breckenbrough with their four young children, and Fanny was preparing for a housewarming party. So she went up to London to get her hair done, on June 26, 1897. Hairdresser Emile Kopf warned her that it was a warm day, but she insisted that she wanted the Paris petroleum wash “to keep her waist-length hair wavy longer”.

Kopf had gas-burning stoves in the salon, which heated the curling tongs, but he said he extinguished them before applying the wash.

Then, outside the salon, his swarthy partner, Emile Fuchs, heard the “boom”. In rushed Fuchs and found Fanny engulfed in flames to the waist, and Kopf a little singed. They rolled her in dressing gowns as she screamed at her friend: "My God, I am in awful agony. What can you do to put me out of my misery?"

The Echo said: "She talked wildly about her children and her husband, and advised the witness never to have her head washed with petroleum."

Fanny was taken to her father-in-law’s house in Westminster where she eventually died. Her body was brought back for burial at Kirby Wiske, between Northallerton and Thirsk.

Her grief-stricken husband had a famous sculptor, Sir George Frampton, create a tender marble monument to her in the church. It shows her with her hair coiled on top of her head, cradling two of her children. One, a girl, stares out with wide, uncomprehending eyes, while the second, a baby, has its back to the viewer so that its face cannot be seen.

In Latin, the monument says that Fanny was the victim of a cruel accident caused “by her own very beauty”. It says: “Her hair set on fire by an evil fate, she died after suffering for 21 days through unspeakable pain with no less determination than that of brave men who have fallen in battle.

“O lovable wife, loyal sister, dutiful daughter and the mother most sweet of three little daughters and one boy and of another who did not survive his mother’s death, poor little unfortunate.”

Although not mentioned in any contemporary report, Fanny was heavily pregnant – and her unborn baby died with her, and so it has no face on the memorial.

The inscription ends with two Latin words: “Manet Amor” – love remains.