Audlem Fire Station History

There is evidence that the Romans operated a fire fighting corps during their occupation but for many centuries thereafter there was no such organised service. Firefighting relied on local volunteers who used primitive equipment such as leather buckets, hooks and grappling irons.

These were usually kept at the church, where the bell was rung to summon help. In some rural areas volunteer firemen persisted into the twentieth century. Organised fire brigades originated in the private brigades of the fire insurance offices which were established after the Great Fire of London in 1666. These of course would only respond to calls from fully paid-up clients and Fire Marks were thus introduced which were displayed outside of property covered.

In Audlem it is claimed that the Volunteer Fire Brigade started in 1898, but the first Minute Book suggests that the first meeting of forty-one subscribers took place at the Crown Hotel on 14th February 1899 when a committee was formed with J.H. Bellyse in the Chair and G.U. Beeston as permanent Secretary and Treasurer.

For an Engine Station 'Mr Hassal's shed was rented at £2 per year.' On the 28th February the members of the Brigade numbered 12 with 8 in reserve a bell was bought and hatchets for each man. Decisions were made that it would operate within a four mile radius, numbers should be limited to 20 men (including a Captain, Lieutenant and two Foremen), that the uniforms should be provided by the committee, and that charges for the use of the engine should be £2.20 per day, plus £1 per day for a horse.

The first call-out seems to have been at 2.55 am on the 28th of April 1899 "when a messenger
arrived on a horse from Woore Hall reporting a rick fire at the farm." The Fire Brigade with 400yds of hose arrived, pumped the water from a pit on the far side of a ploughed field and the fire was out by 6.55am. One large and two small stacks were destroyed.

In 1905 the engine was housed by Audlem Public Hall at E5 per annum. This of course was horsedrawn. It was named "Jubliee" (after the Queen's Jubilee) and the horses were housed in the stables at the Crown. It is said that the wagon on which the pump and men were transported "doubled" as the village ' hearse; the top being removed when it was required for a fire. The pump was operated by ten to twelve men, five or six on each side. Each received 1/-d. per hour plus bread, cheese and beer.

By 1924 the Committee was chaired by Dr. Stain, uniforms the cost 72/6d and caps 61-d., but there were many other expenses, and year after year it was necessary to hold fund raising events, such as dances and whist drives, in order that these expenses could be met.

Two years later in 1926, it was decided that "the engine should be l'owed by motor (a lorry)" but first experiments were not suitable and in 1934, the minutes record that "the wheels of the Manual Engine which had done much work were not suitable for the faster work". The public were approached for subscriptions, and a new Fire Engine was the result.

Before the last war being a Fireman was a part time occupation and all were volunteers, mainly local business men. During hostilities, taken over by the A.F.S. (Auxiliary Fire Service) full time firemen were paid E2.1.0 per week. After the war the Fire Brigade left the Public Hall and have had their Station in Shropshire Street ever since.

Extract taken from "The history of a Cheshire Parish and it's Five Townships" by Latham F. A. 1997

Last updated: Thursday 20 August 2015