About First Fire Station (HT)
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Until the Great Fire of London in 1666, the churchwardens of the various parishes across the land were meant to put out any fires that started in their parish. This was fairly chaotic and inefficient.
After the Great Fire, England’s first fire brigades were formed and run by different insurance companies. ‘Fire marks’ – small plaques – on the outside of a house would show if a property was insured by a particular insurer. There is a fire mark from Norwich Insurance Company on the outside of a building in North Street but it is not known if this was its original location.
By 1865, the Government had formed the Metropolitan Brigade in London. Slowly, more and more were organised across the country and many other areas had volunteer firefighters. Unfortunately, the fire engine was insufficient to overcome the fire in Market Square in 1884, which devastated the north side of the square.
The first ‘fire engine’ was a cart carrying a water tank. This would be pulled along by two men. Other volunteers assisted if needed, in the full knowledge that they would be paid in cheese and jugs of ale!
Later, horse-pulled fire engines came about and finally a motorised engine took over. This was a bull-nosed Morris that local traders paid £10 to have modified by retained firemen. Its bell came from HMS Canterbury. It was scrapped in 1928 when the new fire station was built.
The local handcart fire engine was kept in a cottage in North Street, which is called the ‘Old Fire Station’. This building is an outstanding example of an old weather-boarded building. The characteristic style has the front painted white and the sides black, with black and white joinery. Weatherboard cladding was used on timber-framed buildings in South Essex from the 18th century. Although many cottages in North Street are weather-boarded, some have brick fronts. This was to make them look posh when brick became a status symbol but it was too expensive to have the whole house done.
|Address:||36 North St|
|Categories:||Historical, Point of Interest|