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.



Fire Brigade – Later History

Burton Fire Brigade was transferred from New Street to Moor Street in 1973. The new station was opened on 6th June by the Town Mayor, Harry Buckingham who was also Chairman of the Watch Committee.

March 31st 1974 marked the end of Burton Fire Brigade. With Burton no longer a County Borough and now coming under East Staffordshire District Council control, the brigade became part of the Staffordshire Fire Service.

A museum is proudly maintained at Moor Street Fire Station and may be viewed by the public by appointment.

In pride of place is the original Burton Steamer, which can be viewed through the window the next time you happen to be passing.

On the wall hangs the commemoration plaque to John Bennett, lost in service, as a reminder of the possible perils of the job.



Fire Brigade – Burton Steamer


Whilst the steam Fire Engine had made its appearance in the early nineteenth century it was not until the latter half of the eighteen hundreds that it had developed into an efficient Firefighting machine.

There were two major makers in Britain. Mem weathers, and Shand Mason and Co. Research into Newspaper archives and local History sections at Burton Upon Trent Library uncovered a delivery of a steam Fire Appliance to Burton Corporation in 1876.

When Burton’s steamer reached the end of its days with the Brigade it was sold off, and acquired by a Sir Thomas Stafford Bazley, Bart. This change of homes probably occurred during the late twenties or early thirties.

In 1963 a Mr Bob Bonner founded the Fire Brigade society, and one of the earliest members, a Mr Geoff Bottomly was appointed as Museum Secretary, and started a two year project to acquire items of interest.

Early in 1966 Geoff discovered that an old steam Fire Engine was situated at Hatherop and negotiations with its owner, Sir Thomas Bazley resulted in the Engine being loaned to the Fire Brigade Society.

In November 1967 custody of the steamer was passed to Geoff and the Engine joined the now growing fleet of Appliances known as The Transville Fire Collection. The steamer was to remain in the fleet for twenty five years until its return to its home town of Burton upon Trent in 1992.

In the Summer of 1972 the steamer along with other Fire Appliances was featured in a Granada Television Film about the Fire Brigade Society.

On January the 29th 1992, Geoff was informed that the Engine was to be sold in a Sotheby’s auction at Hendon on 30th March. Concerned about its fate if it went to auction, Geoff thought that it should end its days in some appropriate locality. So at the beginning of March he wrote to Gloucester and the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and to Bass Museum in Burton upon Trent informing them of the machine’s existence, and of its proposed disposal by auction at the end of the month.

A reply came from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service expressing an interest that if funds could be raised, it might be worthwhile contacting Sir Thomas with a view to a direct purchase. As an end result, it can still be enjoyed on display at the present day fire station.

Finally, a treasured photo that reminds that it was once a serious fire fighting machine, seen here on exercise in the New Street fire station yard.



Fire Brigade – Group Photos

This series of group photos provide a lovely glimpse of the Burton Fire Brigade through its history. The pictures and names are made possible through the research of Robert Cox and are a very small sample of the photos featured in his book. They appear here by his kind permission.

One of the oldest photos of the Burton Fire Brigade at the end of the ninteenth century. Though in poor condition, it is just too nice not to feature.

1892 Burton Fire Brigade at Union Street Fire Station
Back Row: John Watson, Albert Simnett, Samuel Smedley, Robert Gooch
Middle Row: Norman Hird, William Hird, Armshee Wallace, John Pass, David Twigg, George Green, Thomas Roberts, John Bennett, Harry Basford
Front Row: James Cox, William Thompson, Charles Siddals

1908 Burton Fire Brigade at the Town Hall
Taking parade is Superintendent Robert Gooch. Facing him from left to right are:
John Bennett (Killed in service), Jack Inwood, Albert Simnett, George Green, James Smith, Armshee Wallace, George Shepherd, Joseph Ridgard, Fred Holford, William Gooch, William Hamp, Norman Hird

1919 Burton Fire Brigade at New Street Fire Station
Back Row: William Webster, Norman Hind, Ralph Harvey, Roland Paskin, Joseph Felthouse, Armshee Wallace, John Bennett
Middle Row: George Green, John Inwood, William Green, William Gooch, Edwin Tooby, Thomas Fletcher
Front Row: Joseph Croshaw, Timothy Banton, James Smith

1929 Burton Fire Brigade at New Street Fire Station
Back Row: Percy Clarke, John Williams, Albert Sumsion, Noah Pegg, William Green, Herbert Paley, Olly Taylor
Middle Row: George Shepherd, Jim Sherratt, Joseph Croshaw, William Grice, John Neal, Roland Paskin, Charlie Dyche
Front Row: Sydney Marler, Harry Shelley, John Inwwod, Joe Felthouse, William Gooch (Supt.), William Hamp, John Yeomans, John Dyche

1947 Burton Fire Brigade
Back Row: Bill Haywood, Sidney Cliffe, Tom Bivens, Harry Appleby, JOe Chamberlain, Harry Porter
Third Row: George Ryder, T02, Bill Oakley, T04, Bill Binley, Alf Crampton, Reg Baldwin, T08
Second Row: Bill Gill, Arthur Beech, S03, S04, Les Wood, S06, George Lowe, S08, Fred Thorpe
Front Row: Fred Stimpson, George Roden, Charlie Dyche, Charlie Elliott, Fred Carnwell, Dick Edwards, George Bentley, John Dyche



Fire Brigade – Call of Duty

At 5:15pm on the Saturday afternoon of 1st November 1924, Burton Fire Brigade was called to assist the Bass and Allsops brigades at a large fire at the English Grains Warehouse in Derby Road. The warehouse was packed full of highly flammable dried Barley grain. After a few hours, the blaze was almost under control when an increase in wind from a changed direction fanned it back to life, re-igniting areas that had already been extinguished. The occasional crash could be heard as internal walls collapsed. Two firemen, William Hamp and Deputy Superintendent John Bennett were working off the flat roof of an adjacent building. John Bennett noticed that the nearby wall was starting to collapse, caused by the swelling og the grain due to being soaked in water. He shouted to his comrade warning that they should flee but John was struck by falling debris. A heavy coping stone and fallen across his legs.

William and other colleagues return to frantically get him clear and apply a tourniquet to his right leg which was bleeding badly. He was rushed to Burton Infirmary where he was diagnosed as suffering from a severe compound fracture. The decision to amputate was deferred and he was presented with a bottle of champagne in hospital to celebrate. The celebration proved to be premature however; after the build up of toxins, his leg had to be amputated and he deteriorated, dying a few days later with his wife and son by his hospital bed.

John Bennett’s funeral procession started from his house in Park Street to the Weslyyan Chapel on the corner of Union Street and Station Street and from there to Stapenhill cemetry. Hundreds of people lined the route. The cortege has headed by both members of the police and fire brigade. The coffin was carried on a Corporation fire engine. On top were John’s helmet, fireman’s belt and axe. A Bass engine followed covered in wreaths and tributes.

John came to Burton from Warwickshire and had been in the town’s Fire Brigade for 37 years and risen to Deputy Superintendent. This was the first ever fatality in the history of Burton Fire Brigade. In commemoration, a brass plaque was provided and hung in the fire station. It was unveiled by Captain Mitchell by removing a Union Jack and may still be seen in the existing museum at New Street Fire Station.

On the evening of February 8th 1832, Burton Fire Brigade carried out a practice drill. Thirty-five year old fireman, John Williams, who had been with the brigade for six years having joined from the Bass Brigade, was suspended by a rope and belt from the 60ft drill tower at the rear of the fire station in New Street.

The exercise was taking place in failing light, illuminated by search-lights. A number of successful similar exercises had been carried out in daylight.

Fireman Percy Clark was the turntable ladder operator for the exercise. It was one of the latest Merryweather motor turntables with a reach of 80ft. After a signal from John Richard Williams, he began to elevate the ladder away from the building. Unbeknown to Percy, one of the ladder’s extending wires had become snagged on a ledge of the building. Colleagues on the ground watched in horror as the ladder suddenly began to strain before giving way with a loud snap and the upper half plummeting to the ground with a crash, narrowly missing some of those observing. John fell to the ground from his position at the top of the tower to the concrete surface with the escape ladder falling on top of him. Dr Davidson appeared on the scene fairly quickly but pronounced John dead at the scene.

John was married with one child and had served in WWI as a transport driver stationed in France. His funeral took place St Paul’s church with a guard of honour being formed by his colleagues.



Fire Brigade – History Book

It is well beyond the scope of this website to provide a full and comprehensive history of the Burton upon Trent Fire Brigade; if however, you find these pages of interest, you would certainly enjoy the complete history in this excellent book available directly from the author.

The book is larger than A4 with over 180 pages of easy reading and many photographs.

“While being the scene of a “Great Fire” long before London’s headline grabbing effort, Burton upon Trent, with its undisputed title of “Brewing Capital of Britain” has also been able to boast of being in possession, throughout its years of prosperity, of one on the finest, if not the finest Fire Brigades in the land.

Formed more than 160 years ago, the Burton Brigade evolved from its purely voluntary roots to become a polished, professional, County Borough Brigade, right up to the cessation of local control in April 1974.

The recounting of the history of the Burton Brigade is not just a backward glance at time past, it is a walk through a period long gone.

All told with a Fire fighters detail and working knowledge, not to mention his observance of some of the more absurd aspects of the job. Illustrated throughout with page after page of evocative photographs.

The title came from a section of the first contract drawn up for the for Burton’s Firemen in 1854, which they all had to sign. Complete with an index of those who served, and a list of appliances that have seen service in the town.

To obtain a copyClick Here.



Public Library

The first Permanent Library, at a property owned by Mr. R. R. Bellamy in Bridge street, was opened in 1838. It was supported by a number of shareholders and just over 70 subscribers, and contained around 2,000 volumes. The shares were £10 each together with an annual subscription of 16 shillings. Subscribers who were not shareholders were allowed to join for a Guinea (21 shillings) a year subscription making it a fairly exclusive club.

The Burton Literary Society, High street, commenced in 1844 and had a reading room and a library of about 1,100 volumes mostly, but not exclusively, of a scientific nature. It was supported by a subscription of £1 per annum for first class, 8s 8d for second class, and 5 shillings per annum for third class. First class had the privilege of attending the reading room at all hours of the day, second class in the evenings only from 5:00 to 10:00pm, third class only had restricted access. The reading room also had London and provincial newspapers available together with most of the popular periodicals of the day. The Secretary and Librarian was Mr S. Simnett.

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Guild street, established around 1846, introduced a reading room, and library containing about 1,400 volumes. Mr. John W. Lomas was Secretary. In 1867 the (Church of England) Young Men’s Christian Association was transformed into the Mechanics’ Institute. By 1868 it had a reading room and a library of 4,000 books, and by 1871 it had been moved to premises in Station Street.

In 1876, the Mechanics’ Institute and the Burton Literary Society were amalgamated as the Burton Institute. This moved to new premises in Union Street in 1879. A very tall in its day, narrow building of four bays designed in Italian Gothic style, by Reginald Churchill of Burton as seen above. The institute occupied the ground floor with a library of now nearly 8,000 volumes and a reading room; the second floor was occupied by the School of Art and part of the third floor by the School of Science.

The institute grew from 650 members in 1888 to 966 in 1896, when it was dissolved and its premises were acquired by Burton Municipal Corporation for use as Burton’s first Free Library, available to everyone. By this time, the collection had grown to 19,000 volumes together with an additional reference only section of 1,700 books.

Part of the building and 3,000 books, largely technical, was reserved as a subscription library. This had three levels of membership; first class at 21 shillings, second class at 10s 6d and third class at 5 shillings for an annual subscription, the different classes of subscription again being used to determine what hours of access were permitted.

In 1902, the Borough Librarian had salary of £120 plus an additional £45 for his additional duty of Secretary for both the Schools of Art and Design. If that wasn’t enough, he was also absent for some hours to fulfil his other duty as Museum Curator just up the road on the corner of Guild Street. At this time, the library was investing something like £50 a year on new books.

Aside from the main Union Street library, due to lack of space, branch reading rooms for newspapers were established at Uxbridge Street and Victoria Road schools which were open in the evening from 6:00 – 9:30pm.

Towards the end of its time, the Union Street library was hopelessly inadequate and the later librarian, Kenneth Stanesby spent most of his energy leading campaigns for a replacement library (added to his duty of ejecting schoolboys from playing in the lift which was a popular free entertainment of the time). The new Burton library was finally opened in 1976 at Riverside, off High Street on the redundant Bass Maltings site. The Union Street building was unceremoniously demolished in 1977.



Market Hall

The Market Hall is the most evident clue that Burton is officially a market down, requiring that at some time, it was granted a charter to operate as such by the crown.

The existing market hall opened in 1883, occupying the same site as the original built in the fifteenth century, has a stonework depicting King John (younger brother of Richard (Lionheart) I, accompanied by two knights, granting the charter to the kneeling abbot in the year 1200.

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Market Hall – General History

On 12th April, 1200, King John, son of Henry II, younger brother of Richard I (Lionheart) probably most famous for being forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, is recorded as granting the necessary charter to allow Burton to have a weekly market. The date of the charter seems to have been authenticated but at this time, King John was on the continent and arrived in England in early October with his child bride before they were crowned together at Westminster Abbey on 8th. If the date is correct therefore, the charter would therefore have been handled by the king’s administration. King John did however, visit Burton that autumn during a grand tour around the country which included Staffordshire to Nottingham along the river Trent.

This allowed permission for a weekly Thursday market and a three-day festival on the eve, day and morrow of St Modwen’s Day (28th-30th October) to the Abbot William Melburne.

The first Market House was built by Thomas Feylde, Abbot of Burton 1472-93. This actually survived until 1772 when it was finally demolished to make space for a new Town Hall built by Lord Paget.

A competition for architectural designs was launched in May 1880, with one of its terms being the inclusion of an ornamental design connected with the history of the town over the west entrance. The competition was won by Dixon and Moxon of Barnsley, and tenders for the building of the new market hall were invited by 19 December 1881. A model of the main sculpted panel was approved by the Fire Brigade, Markets and Fairs Committee on 23 May 1883. Work was commenced and the Market Hall was officially opened later the same year.

Stone Sculpture
The impressive stone sculpture above the main market hall entrance depicts the scene of King John accompanied by two knights as he hands over a scroll to confirm the rights and liberties to the kneeling abbot, who is accompanied by two monks and a figure bearing a bishop’s crozier.

The inscription beneath is flanked by the coat of arms of King John on the right and those of Burton Abbey on the left. It reads…


There was also some debate about the type of lettering to be used for the inscription: there was a suggestion that it should be in Gothic script, but the architect felt this would be inappropriate to the Renaissance style of the building. At the time, there was also some dispute over that actual date with different sources claiming 1200, 1203 and 1204 so the date was not included as originally intended.

The carving was still uncompleted in August, with the sculptor, John Roddis arguing that he should receive an additional £60 for the work because the stone was much harder than the Coxbench stone originally agreed upon so took longer than planned.

Above the doorway set into a triangular entrance pediment is a relief of the Burton upon Trent coat of arms, a shield, crest and motto. The shield is divided into lower and upper sections, with the lower one depicting six wavy lines across the shield that symbolise the Rivers Trent and Dove. The upper segment of the shield bears a spread-eagle flanked by two fleur-de-lys taken from the arms of the Paget family. The crest is a castellated crown, a symbol of civic government. The motto reads ‘HONOR ALIT ARTES’.

The upper facades on each wing of the building have semi-circular pediments each containing a pair of seated male figures holding fruit, a reference to the market products.

The side entrance of the market building has a sculptural relief of a bull’s head, complete with a ring through its nose. There are also smaller decorative features of garlands and faces at various points on the building.

And there is an assortment of stonework worth looking up for.

Originally, as well as stalls laid out pretty much as in the current day, the Market Hall interior used to have stalls around the whole of the upstairs balcony, accessible by stairs at the far end. The balcony is actually still there but, since it is no longer used, it goes largely unnoticed. I bet you look up the next time you visit!

A fish market was added to the Market Hall in 1925.

In the twenty-first century, the Market remains an important feature of Burton’s identity.



Public Transport

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