Old Gosforth Fire Station

The Old Fire Station at Goasforth, Gosforth Heritage
Council Chambers and Fire Station credit Evelyn Stark

We are researching the Old Gosforth Fire Station. To keep our site continually engaging, we will be sharing regular updates here as we discover more about the history of the Old Gosforth Fire Station. For more heritage stories about Gosforth and the surrounding area please follow our blog.

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.

Original plans for old Gosforth Fire Brigade

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.

Fire insurnace plate

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.

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.

Old Gosforth Fire Station Text From Commitee Meeting
Text from original committee documents

“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.

Newspaper cutting of 1901 fire reprt in Gosforth
Morpeth Herald Saturday 9th November 1901

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.

Newspaper cutting of artcile Steam Fire Engine
Morpeth Herald 16th September 1905

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.

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.

Plans for Gosforth Fire Brigade house.
Plans for new residence

Photo Frederick Coney Gosforth Fire Brigade
Chief Superintendent Coney

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.

Gosforth Fire Brigade 1908
Gosforth Fire Brigade 1908 Photo credit Stockton Archive (Click photo for link to archives).

This research takes us to 1913. We are currently researching Old Gosforth Fire Station through the war years. Don’t forget to check back to see how we get on. You can also sign up to follow our blog at the bottom of this page or follow us on Facebook at DiscoveringheritageGosforth  or Instagram @Discoveri2