Fighting Fires

Faringdon Fire Station 2020
Faringdon Fire Station – opened 1961

Church St Fire Engine Shed 1985The town’s first fire fighting appliance, the parish pump as it was called, belonged to the church and was originally housed in this garage at the end of Church Street. The garage is marked on a map surveyed in 1876; it was still there for this photo in 1985 and is still there now in 2020. The horses to pull the pump were kept in a paddock behind the Bull and the Police Station where Dove Court is now and relied on volunteers to run it.

Fire Engine 1904Faringdon District Council started up in the 1890s and took over responsibility for fire fighting; so in 1900 the first uniformed fire brigade was formed with Mr Frank Lane as Captain. A brand-new ‘Merryweather Fire Pump’, still a manual pump was purchased. The brigade consisted mainly of volunteers and if needed, bystanders would be pressed into service to help work the pump, 7 men each side were needed. The photo from around 1904 shows the pump cart hitched up to the horses in their paddock off Bull Close, London Street, at the side of the Bull Inn. The back of the old Victorian police station in Coach Lane is in the background. Dove Court has now been built on this site. The two horses were purchased by the parish council.

Faringdon Market Hall 1913 1From 1903 the appliance was kept under the Market Hall with Captain Haworth as superintendent and 12 men. The town’s ambulance was kept there as well. It must have been a problem in an emergency with the horses still kept in the paddock, which could be accessed from the lane at the side of the Bull, half way up London Street. A ladder and a net were added to the left side of the building for the firemen to practice getting down from a burning building. The structure on the side of the town hall where the war memorial names are now was for drying canvas hose. The hand pump was eventually replaced with a mechanical pump which was towed by Anns’ breakdown lorry.

During the 1930s, the fire station moved to a site in Bromsgrove Place on the corner of where the new Hart Avenue joins Bromsgrove today. The photo below shows Bromsgrove, possibly taken in the 1950s, with the location of the fire station circled in the top right-hand corner. If you look closely you can just see the pole they used to dry the hoses.

Bromsgrove Fire Station 1950sFire Engine 1937Faringdon Fire Brigade 1937

Fire Engine Instructions 1930s
Instruction book for the fire engine.

The first motorised appliance wasn’t purchased until around 1931/32. It was a Morris Commercial Pumping Appliance and by 1937 the fireman themselves had raised enough money to purchase a Morris Commercial Personnel Carrier to go with it. The original instruction book for the fire engine is stored in our archives. At that time the brigade consisted mainly of volunteers, who were paid a retainer of 5/- a quarter.

The photos of the new vehicles and men above were taken in Bromsgrove Place in 1937. First photo – Wilf Mulford (driver); Charlie Smith (Captain);Sid Taylor (Sub-Captain); and Mike Tucker. Second photo – Captain Charlie Smith and crew. Left to right, back standing: Dick Goddard; Sid Taylor; Herby Page; Archie Townsend; Mike Tucker. Front standing: Charlie Smith (Captain); Gerald Drewit; Harold Hunt; Walter Busby; Chris Grey; Freddie Rogers. Sitting: Wilf Mulford (driver).

1940s. At the outbreak of war in 1939, the brigade became part of the National Fire Service and had 6 full-time members. All reverted to part-time after the war.

Fire Engine C1940Market Place C1945

During the war protective helmets were worn by the Faringdon Fire Brigade. There was an A.R.P emergency water tank in the Market Place in front of Liddiard’s shop in Faringdon. Children used the tank as a swimming pool so it was covered over with a frame and wire mesh. The probable use of incendiary devices to set fire to buildings and crops was taken seriously by the authorities and leaflets describing what to do in case of an attack were distributed to the populace. An A.R.P. siren was placed on the roof of the Services Club and at the end of the war was moved to the roof of the Police Station and used to summon the Fire Brigade.

Faringdon firemen were also sent to blitzed towns and cities during the war:  Exeter, Bristol, Avonmouth, Southampton, Coventry, and London.

Ww2 Fire Exeter
Message received from a Faringdon fireman sent to a warehouse fire in Exeter.
Ww2 John Tucker Coventry
Commendation for John Tucker.

Leading Fireman, John Tucker, 29 years old, from The Nurseries, Stanford Road, Faringdon was recommended for an award for devotion to duty during a raid on Coventry on the nights of 14th and 15th November 1940. He was in charge of a party fighting a fire in the basement of a commercial building when he fell into a vat of enamel concealed under water. After his clothes were cut off him and dressed only in an overcoat he continued fighting the fire until 7am and then drove for part of the journey home to Faringdon. “I suppose the fire kept him warm but the journey home must have been cold, in mid-winter. Cars did not have heaters then and I doubt if fire engines did either.”

Marlborough Street 23x 2015In 1943, the fire station moved again to Marlborough House on Arthur’s Hill at the corner of Marlborough Street and Bromsgrove – now Faringdon Motorist Centre.

In 1948, the Fire Service became the responsibility of the County Authority, so Faringdon became Station 19 in ‘C’ division (C19) of the Berkshire and Reading Fire Brigade. The control room at Swindon in Wiltshire did the mobilizing until the 1960s when that was transferred to Reading and then to Kidlington in 1974. Faringdon are now controlled by Thames Valley Fire Control, based at Calcot near Reading, who handle all fire calls and control all fire stations in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, & Oxfordshire.

Fire Coleshill House 19521952. Fire at Coleshill House on 23rd September. The house had been the war time home of Churchill’s Auxiliary Unit. One of the most difficult fires the brigade had to deal with. First on the scene was the Faringdon appliance and a total of 15 attended from 5 brigades. The photo shows the City of Oxford Fire Brigade’s open cab turntable ladder. The firemen were showered with molten lead as they fought there way into the house. Eventually the last firemen to leave the building had to jump from the first floor windows. The building consequently had to be demolished and was never rebuilt.

Queens Corination 19531953. The Faringdon fire crew turned out for the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation celebrations.

They have stopped here in ‘The Narrows’, exactly on top of where the old brook passes under the road. The port well and old pump house can be seen in the distance on the right. The shop on the left selling Burny Ale, must have been an off-licence at this time. It is No.10, the last premises in Cornmarket, previously Yeatman’s (taylors). The shop hosted many different trades before it became the barbers shop it is today.

Fire Engine 19541954. More up-to-date (or familiar looking) fire engine was purchased soon after the end of the war. The photo taken in Bromsgrove Place shows – Sub Officer Sid Taylor; Bill Stanton; Fred Kirby; Jim Sheppard; Bernie Stepp; Bill Goodenough; Herbie Page; Jim Turner; Harold Chapman.

On the 20th July 1954 a B47 Aircraft of the United States Air force from R.A.F. Fairford crashed at Radcot near Faringdon, Killing one member of the crew of four, Faringdon and Bampton Firemen attending.

Fire Engine 1966In November 1961 the current and purpose built Fire Station in Station Road was officially opened.

1966. Photo of the same fire engine outside the new fire station with Faringdon Fire Fighters: Sub Officer Boas Simpson; Leading Officer George Cornwell; Jack Fox; Desmond Ball; Maurice Woolford; Bernard Stepp.)

Fire Barn Longcot 19661966. Faringdon Firemen attending fire at John Luker’s barn at Longcot.


Some more recent photos of appliances and crews at the new fire station over the years 1980, 1992, 2002, 2003 & 2014 – Notice that by 1992 both men and women fire fighters are appearing in the photos.

Fire Service 1980Fire Service 1992Fire Service 2002Fire Service 2003Fire Service 2014


References:
1. A brief history of Faringdon Fire Station by Bill Law. Available as a pdf from Faringdon.org
2. Fire Service History 1904-2014 – A collection by Bill Law stored in the FDAHS archives, which includes all the above items, including photos with officers all named. This page contains only a small selection of items from the collection.

3. Faringdon and the Vale Venture, Issue 11, June 17th 1972. Article from interview with Mr Sid Taylor who joined the force in 1930.
4. The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Bk1 p94, Bk2 p48, Bk3 p72. By Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications.
5. Bill Ashby – The British Resistance Archive website at www.staybehinds.com


Researched by Ian Lee, February 2020.