Nantwich Fire Station History

The history of Nantwich Fire Station:

The Early History of the Fire Service in Nantwich 1438 - 1991 - 2013

The first record of a major fire in Nantwich was in 1438; however, by far the most serious medieval incident occurred in December '1583, when the great Fire devastated most of the town. Privy councillors noted that Nantwich should be rebuilt being

"not only of good wealth and trade by reason of her situation, but also of importance for the service of her majesty and the realm (being a thoroughfare, lying convenient for the receipt of soldiers, carriage and munitions to be sent to the realm of Ireland)."

The Crown could not afford a prosperous town and vital military staging post to be left derelict. Given the mounting fears of a Spanish Invasion and the Queen's gift of £1,000 against an annual state revenue of £200,000 indicated the real importance of the town,

By 1586 an additional £3,300 was raised for rebuilding by a nationwide appeal.

Despite all this, it wasn't until 1737 apparently, that a decision was made to build a fire Engine house, this was erected in 1740 in a corner of the Churchyard opposite the Rectory and one Fire Engine was bought. This was supplemented in 1746 with two dozen leather Fire Buckets, While in 1750, one of the earliest successful fire safety campaigns saw the transition from flammable thatch roofing to tile or slate, Since the town retains some thatch we  only hope for completion of this programme in due course.

A new Fire Station was built in 1853 in Pillory Street by the Lord Crewe on  Land given by the marquis of Cholmondeley. However, the old engine  proved incapable of dealing with an incident which destroyed six houses, four stables, the smithy and unroofed a further five houses on 31st July, 1868.

A public subscription of �230 saw the appointment of Charles Lawton as Chief Fire Officer of the newly formed Nantwich Volunteer Fire Brigade, equipped with a horse-drawn manual fire engine. Costs were met via the insurance Company's annual subscriptions and the annual town event. Thereafter, records remain showing continual development.

Other milestones in the station history are;

1883:  A. Shand Mason Lattice Escape ladder purchased for the Nantwich Volunteer Fire Brigade. An "Escape Chute" was fitted beneath the ladder. Rescued persons were passed through a gate at the head of the ladder, allowed to slide down and then assisted out through a gate in the ladder base. The chute was removed when, at drill, a projecting rivet from a fireman's boot slit the canvas from top to bottom. Fortunately, the man did not fall through the hole.

1904:  The manual Fire Engine was replaced by a "Merry weather" Steam Fire Engine. Steam was raised "en-route" by an engineer who stoked the boiler fire as he rode the footplate. He disappeared once and turned up eventually at the fire, dusty but none the worse for wear.

1920:   Mr. Edge of the Crown Hotel informed the Brigade that he had sold his stud of horses and also returned the quick-hitch harness that was used to attach the horses to the Steamer. Arrangements were made to tow the steamer behind a motor. In 1923, an appeal was launched for �400 to obtain a pump to replace the Steamer.

1924: To give subscribers an interest in the Volunteer Brigade's management and to put it on a legal footing, a small limited company was formed. The Nantwich Volunteer Fire Brigade became the Nantwich & District Fire Brigade Limited. At that time, several of the daily newspapers published an extract from the Registrar of Joint Stock Co's. Annual report relating to the only fire brigade that was a limited company. It stated that the more efficiently this business was conducted, the smaller the dividend paid. The brigade never paid a dividend.

1926: The Nantwich & District Fire Brigade Limited purchased "Martin Light Fire Engine" from Messrs. Martin & Stamford of Lincolnshire, replacing, the Steam Fire Engine.  Between 1926, and 1936 the Fire Station was relocated to premises in Beam Street which was remodelled to something approaching its present form by 1939. This station continued in use until 1991.

1936:  The Nantwich & District Fire Brigade Ltd purchased from Birmingham Corporation a 4 1/2 ton Dennis Fire Engine which had a 50hp engine and delivered 500 gallons per minute.
The Nantwich & District Fire Brigade Ltd operated in competition with the Urban District Fire Brigade providing cover against the inadequacies of fire fighting provision in the area.

This competition was expressed at the time as follows :-  "Urban Authorities have to obtain or maintain a fire brigade to protect the towns property, which, is usually insured; if Insurance Companies consider the protection inadequate then premiums are raised; but insurance Companies make no payments towards fire protection; when brigades attend fires in Urban areas no charge can legally be made, but insurance Companies do sometimes make ex gratia payments; outside the Urban areas Brigades can legally make a claim for services rendered and the use of engine and appliances is usually met. 'To cope' with a town fire the Urban District Council considered the water mains adequate and as the Rural District Council does not contribute to the Fire Brigades upkeep they provide a annual fire engine on a motor chassis for their area"

A graphic account of how the Nantwich & District Fire Brigade Ltd dealt with a fire was given by a Mr. H.T. Johnson in a publication of the day.

"What happens in Nantwich when you leave a log of green wood on the fire and go to bed leaving the rug on the hearth, the clothes maid round the fire and the dog playing about; if you are fortunate the Police knock you up and phone to the gas works, the buzzer blows, quite an effective way of calling the brigade, especially in the day time, but it has the disadvantage of bringing a crowd. The first fireman at the fire station strikes a panel in the door which automatically opens, he gets to know from the telephone where the fire is and drives out picking up other firemen en route. If it is a town fire a stand pipe is put down at the nearest hydrant and hose run out; meanwhile other firemen have entered your house with chemical extinguishers. At a private house, the gas is shut off at the meter and doors and windows closed. If it be a night fire the bedrooms are searched, you can never rely on 'what people say; in a private house the Brigade try to avoid pumping water into upper rooms as it has to come down through the ceiling."

1938: January. Nantwich & District Fire Brigade (Limited Company) sold their assets to Nantwich Urban District Council for �553.

During the war, Nantwich & District Fire Brigade like all local fire brigades, became part of the nations defence against aerial attack and was therefore part of the National Fire Service until 1 April 1947.

On that day Cheshire County Council assumed responsibility for all public Fire Brigades within its area except those which were part of County Borough or City Authorities. In Cheshire County Fire Brigade, Nantwich Fire Station was an essential part of the Brigades 'C' Division, with Headquarters based in Crewe, and remained so until 1 April 1974 when the County Council was reorganised and the Brigade reformed into Cheshire Fire Brigade. 'C' Division continued until 1989 when the Crewe & Nantwich District Council Area became part of the Brigades 'A' Division with the Headquarters located in Chester.

The station itself remained virtually unchanged throughout this period but suffered damage in 1989 when a roof collapsed.

The station has been continuously in service relying on whole time and retained personnel to serve the community.

From 1991 to date Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service has kept the Nantwich community fire station and now relies solely on "On Call" personnel to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nantwich is currently the busiest on-call fire station within Cheshire, responding to over 300 calls a year.

Last updated: Wednesday 26 August 2015

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Nantwich Fire Station
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