Thornbury and District Museum: The early history of Thornbury's fire service

September 06 2019
Thornbury and District Museum: The early history of Thornbury's fire service

THE first problem Thornbury's early firefighters had to deal with was the water supply. There was very little in the way of natural water available in the town and the first solution was to get water from the tank at the railway station, which had limitations.

In September 1898 the parish council meeting was attended by Inspector Gotts, who was superintendent of the Bristol City Fire Brigade. He said that fire hydrants should be in the principal streets not more than 100 yards apart. He also suggested two moveable standpipes, branch pipes, nozzles, hoses and couplings, and a cart with a 30ft ladder. The meeting was told that West Gloucestershire Water Company had contracted to supply six hydrants and it was up to the council to decide where to put them.

By April 1899 the fire extinguishing appliances had arrived. It was resolved to accept an offer from Stafford Howard, of Thornbury Castle, of his hand fire engine and ‘that it was desirable that a fire brigade for the town be formed‘. Messrs Bevan, Canning, Pitcher, Tucker and Stone were appointed as a fire brigade.

A fire in October that year which burned down Edward Cullimore’s saw mill showed that there were still fundamental problems with tackling fires in Thornbury. A newspaper report said that “although there was a large tank containing 25,000 gallons of water on the site, the fire was so close and burning so fiercely that the men who turned up to help could not dip their buckets into it". A hose brought to the scene with a hand engine was "not long enough to be used".

By the following month the brigade had been given instruction in the use of their appliances, officers had been chosen and a committee authorised to ask for subscriptions of the townspeople to provide funds for their equipment.

On February 17, 1900, the brigade appeared before the council attired in their new dress and helmets. The chairman congratulated them on their smart appearance and recommended they practice in their uniforms to get thoroughly used to them.

A newspaper report from April 1920 shows that, although the fire brigade had a horse-drawn cart it had never had its own horse. This led to a crisis when Samuel Pegg left town and the fire brigade could no longer borrow his.

In 1927 a more long-term solution was sought as it was reported that the fire brigade wanted to buy a motorised fire engine.

The next chapter would begin around 1930, when Thornbury Rural District Council took over responsibility for the fire brigade, providing modern motorised equipment, and a new fire station was built.