Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Swindon Fire Brigade

Formed when the wartime National Fire Service was denationalised, 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the Wiltshire Fire Brigade. Today the county fire service has around 600 fire fighters on roll, a far cry from when a Volunteer Brigade was formed in Swindon in 1879.

With William E. Morris, son of the Swindon Advertiser founder, as Captain, A.H. Meadows Deputy Captain and William Affleck, engineer, the total force numbered just 14.

In 1864 Old Swindon's horse drawn Shand Mason manual pump was housed in Newport Street. Keys to the building were kept at the police station with another set at the Wood Street home of Swindon surveyor William Read.

Meanwhile in New Swindon the GWR Company made their steam pump, used in the works, available for any incidents in the railway village.

However by the 1870s with the old fire engine in a poor state of repair, fire fighting provisions were woefully inadequate.

A proposal to institute a fire fighting force was made at a meeting of the Old Swindon Local Board on May 8, 1879. Mr Reynolds proposed and Mr Edmonds seconded 'That the Board through the Chairman call a Public Meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday the 21st inst to consider the desireability of forming a Fire Brigade and providing a Fire Escape for the Town.'

A committee of Local Board members was voted in to ascertain the cost of repairing the engine and providing additional hose.

By September things were moving on apace. The committee reported that the fire engine was repaired and in working order and the Royal Society for the Protection of Life confirmed they were ready to provide a fire escape.

The Local Board Clerk was instructed to apply to Messrs Arkell & Son, brewers at Kingsdown, for a piece of land at the end of Victoria Street to be used as a station.

However, this may have been merely a temporary arrangement as less than a year later the Fire Brigade committee recommended a site in the Sands at the entrance to the Quarries for a Fire Engine and Fire Escape Station. Old Swindon Board was asked to contribute £40 towards the cost and an application was made to the New Swindon Board for the same amount.

In 1901 Fire Brigade volunteers were paid 1s (5p) for each drill they attended up to a maximum of 15 drills a year. Horses to pull the fire appliance were hired from the GWR Hotel at a cost of 2s 6d per horse per hour.

In 1907 the Captain at the Cromwell Street Station was John N. Jefferies. His deputy was R.W. Grubb with E.R. Bowering engineer and secretary. W. Eden was the 2nd engineer, G. Selby the foreman and there were 16 firemen.

Records from August 1920 to January 1922 reveal the Brigade had been called out to 16 incidents and seven false alarms. In 2007 Wiltshire Fire Service dealt with over 14,000 emergencies, attending 1,971 fires, 725 road traffic accidents and 370 flooding incidents.

Fire Crew at Cromwell Road dated c1890 and the Drove Road Fire Station pictured in the 1970s courtesy of

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