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Early Years Of Gosforth Fire Station
Until the 19th century, all fire engines and crews in England were provided by voluntary bodies, parish authorities or insurance companies. By the late 19th century Local Authorities including Gosforth Urban District Council had been established, and these new bodies took on responsibility for a local fire service. We know that there was a volunteer fire brigade in Gosforth by 1894. Architects plans show a relatively modest view of the original fire station compared to the building as we know it in 2018. However, records show that various applications for alterations were submitted over the years.
The First Fire Engine Establishment
Some early fire brigades were organised and run by insurance companies. Each insurance company individually identified the properties that fell under their authority. During the 18th and 19th centuries globes or plates bearing the name and symbol of the relevant insurance company were placed on properties insured by that company. It is sometimes possible to spot the remnants of these on older properties.
The Fire Engine Establishment in Edinburgh was the first organised Fire Brigade in the world. The establishment was set up by James Braidwood in 1824 who acted as its first Fire Chief. In 1833 the London Fire Establishment was formed when James Braidwood moved to London from Edinburgh. In 1938 the Fire Brigade Act was passed, and the arrangement of local Fire Brigades became a legal requirement.
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Gosforth Urban District Council Fire Brigade
The following excerpt from an early Gosforth Urban District Council Fire Brigade committee meeting illustrates one of the problems the old brigade encountered when recruiting members.
“Brigade members: It was suggested that the Supert: be authorised to engage suitable men as members of the Fire Brigade from persons who are not employed by the Council, owing to the great difficulty of getting suitable men to work on the roads capable of doing brigade work.”
This would suggest that at this time Council workers on the roads also covered as firemen.
Chief Fireman Ainsborough and Superintendent Coney
Records and newspaper accounts reference attendance at a number of fires in the early years of the brigade. The Morpeth Herald of 9 November 1901 refers to a fire in a property in West Avenue, Gosforth.
On 9th November 1901, the Gosforth Fire Brigade was called out to a fire which had broken out in a house on West Avenue Gosforth. Under the supervision of Chief Fireman Ainsborough, the fire was satisfactorily brought under control resulting in minimal damage.
This is an early reference to Chief Fireman Ainsborough, probably Michael Ainsborough, listed as a roadman working for the District Council and living at 132 High Street in the 1901 census.
In 1905 Gosforth Urban District Council engaged Frederick Coney, a Londoner, as Superintendent Engineer. Mr Coney’s arrival seems to have heralded a period of greater professionalism within the service. In the same year, Gosforth Urban District Council ordered a steam fire engine which was delivered in September.
The 1911 census records a Frederick Charles Coney working as Superintendent Fire Brigade at the Council Chambers Gosforth. Frederick Coney was aged 27. His birthplace is recorded as Southwark London. He was married to Ada and had two children Martha aged 13 and Margaret aged 7.
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Superintendent Coney Tenders His Resignation
Further research into the minutes of the Gosforth Auxiliary Fire Brigade committee meetings reveals that two years later the matter of the resignation of Superintendent Coney was discussed. It appears that Superintendent Coney was dissatisfied with his housing arrangement. At a meeting on the 7th. July 1913, Mr Coney made a statement to the committee regarding his resignation. After the meeting, the committee recommended that no further action should be taken concerning the appointment of a new Superintendent. Mr Coney withdrew his resignation and plans were made to build a new residence in the yard behind the council offices.
Motor Fire Engine
There was a further development in 1912 when the Fire Brigade Committee agreed to purchase a motorised vehicle to pull the fire engine. It was reported that this action would result in an annual saving of £150 per year as it would no longer be necessary to keep horses. In August 1912 it was agreed to purchase a Dennis 50 BHP fire tender and in October of the same year agreement made with the Newcastle company of Sir William Angus Sanderson to purchase such a tender. By January 1913 the vehicle was being road tested, and in the same month, Frederick Coney visited the Dennis works in Guildford. By April 1913 the Council had agreed on an annual insurance premium of £18 for the new vehicle, and in the same month, Mr Pierre Auzears of Salters Road provided driving lessons for the brigade.
This research takes us to 1913.
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2 thoughts on “Old Gosforth Fire Station”
My father worked for Gosforth and Newcastle Fire Brigades and saw duty in WW2 , seconded to helping out in places like Manchester and Coventry . I remember wonderful stories that he used to tell our family about his day to day life as a firefighter and mechanic . He never told any sad stories always nice, happy ones
I will always be very proud of him and his colleagues.
I can remeber very well the siren going off at the Gosforth Fire Station when I was a youngster. It was the same as war time sirens. This happenned when there was a call out and served to notify those workman on the council who were also employed as part time firemen. On hearing the siren they would stop their work and travel to the firestation to standby for further call outs until the rgeulars returned. This was still happening to the best of my knowledge in the mid 60’s.