Fire Brigade – New Street

The idea of a new ‘more fitting’ Fire Station to replace the one in Union Street was first raised with the Borough Council in 1900. It was met with some enthususiasm and a number of possible land purchases were considered. The favourite proposal was for properties in New Street and Park Street, as long as a right of way could be established between the two. This done, the land was acquired and local building companies were invited to tender. Five tenders were submitted, the winning bid was submitted by R.Kershaw for £6,150.

The station was completed in 1903 and the Grand Opening was scheduled for Friday, October 30th. The opening ceremony was performed by the Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee, Harold Rugg. This full list of those who received official invitations such as the one shown above was: Deputy Major – J.R.Morris; Aldermen – Austin, Bassett, Croad, Glover, Hall, Harlow, Hutchinson, King, Lathbury, Lowe, Ordish, Parker, Rowland, Samble, Stack, Thanely, Tresise and Wilkison; Borough Surveyor – Mr Lynham; Town Clerk – Mr Whitehead.

Representing the Fire Brigade were Superintendents Robert William Gooch (Burton Borough Fire Brigade), Bailey (Allsopps Brewery Fire Brigade) and Bradshaw (Measham Fire Brigade). The opening also attracted very good support from the town’s residents. This was to be a good year for Burton crowds for the new tramway system had been opened to much acclaim a couple of months earlier.

The aforementioned Mr Gooch together with Alfred Wilkins (Engineer) and Ralph Harvey (Coachman/Driver) had accommodation within the new station. There were however, teething problems with faulty or incorrectly designed chimneys which rendered many parts of the building smoke logged rendering them uninhabitable until new taller chimneys could be built.

Full time firemen were employed for the first time and new uniforms, including bright new helmets were issued, though the latter proved to be unpopular in service.

Two versions of the Burton Fire Brigade badge are a slight mystery at the moment thanks to an eagle-eyed visitor. I had imagined that one was introduced when the New Street station opened, to be later revised but, as has been pointed out, both bear the hand holding the saltire of Saint Andrew (as an allusion to the early medieval chapel on Andresey island founded by Saint Modwen) which was not added to the Burton Crest until the Grant of Arms in 1928, prior to that, it was simply a crown (answers welcome).

Both badges  bafflingly show the hand holding the saltire of Saint Andrew  not added to the Burton Crest until the Grant of Arms in 1928.

As a boy, I can remember seeing the Fire-Engines in their bays, not unlike the picture here. It is easy to forget that when the Fire Station was opened, no such vehicles existed. This was still very much the age of horse drawn transport with motorized transport only just beginning to become available. When the station opened, it only had one Shand, Mason & Co. Steam Fire Engine as shown below, together with one hand pump engine which could only produce a limited jet, unable to reach higher levels of buildings.

The Fire Brigade also now had its own horses instead of having to ‘hire’ them for each emergency!

Below shows the Burton Steamer, preserved in excellent condition at the present day fire station.

The bays initially dwarfed THE Steam Fire Engine. Fortunately, it was built large enough to accommodate some of  the early Fire Engines but the Station’s eventual downfall was that the bays were simply too small to accommodate modern appliances.

In 1920, the first motorized Fire Engine was purchased. It was a 45hp Dennis Motor Pump and cost Burton Corporation the princely sum of £2,650 with a loan to be paid back over 10 years. It could also replace horses by towing the existing Shand Steamer to larger incidents where both pumps were called for. A second engine was delivered later in the year, this one being equipped with a wheeled ladder. A ‘proper’ fire engine at last!

By the 1960s, a variety of appliances were at the brigade’s dispossal.

New Street Fire Station was finally closed in 1973 when it was transferred to the new Fire Station in Moor Street. For some years, the old Fire Station has been the home of T.L. Darby the Volkswagon car dealer who have made a beautiful job of keeping one of Burton’s favourite buildings in excellent order.

All of the Edwardian stonemasonary, once again, proudly featuring the new Coat of Arms, now make a very attractive feature.


Website by Kevin Gallagher