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Fire Station

Discussion of the fire station got a little rambling for the Church Street page so it now has a page to itself.
This page was reviewed in October 2011 and given a few tweaks. The text on it looks like it should still be OK, even if it isn't up to the minute.

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The modern day fire station is at 99 Church Street (north side, a little to the west of Latymer Road) and opened in 1941. It is a shame I couldn't manage to get a decent photo of such a nice building.

Looking through a 1965 fleet list it seems that back then the station had a complement of three pumps and a pump escape and a large number of other vehicles. When I visited the station on a Junior School trip in the early 1970s there was a pump, a pump escape, a foam tender and a car for the senior officer. My casual observations over the years suggest it seemed to stay pretty much the same and then lose some status in the 1990s, going down to just the one tender plus an assortment of odds and ends such as hose layers. It looked to me like there were one or two tractor units that could be loaded with one of several 'pods' for want of a better expression. I get the impression that it has regained much status over more recent years and it is now the Borough Command. 'The London Fire Brigade unofficial website' doesn't seem to be around any more but c. 2005 it had some photos and gave the then current complement as a pump, a pump ladder, a rescue tender and another unit used for urban rescue with the odds and ends having moved elsewhere.

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The old fire station used to stand on the corner of Church Street and Winchester Road where there is now open space next to Ladbrokes. Eccleston suggests in his book that the building that is now Ladbrokes was actually part of it but I tend to disagree based on my limited researches.

I came across a photo of the fire brigade outside the 'council offices' and 'Engine House' as they called it then (photo above left) though unfortunately I do not have a date for it. The windows of the council offices look extremely similar to those on the first floor of Ladbrokes though it looks like there was originally an extra bit on the side set back a little (there is still a suggestion on this on the side of the building). The fire station seems to be next door. In a 1937 directory the fire station is at number 35. Today Ladbrokes is number 37 which in 1937 was a grocer.

I then came across a postcard showing another view of this stretch of road (above centre). It looks like the scene dates from before 1908 (no Lamb's Institute in the background) and that is Winchester Road on the right. The building that is now Ladbrokes seems to be the one carrying the name of J.W. Nix & Sons, builders, on the side (they were listed as being at number 37 in 1902 so this supports the case). It doesn't look as if the fire station buildings are the same as those in the other photo.

Something the postcard does illustrate is that the distance between Winchester Road and Ladbrokes is not what it once was. The junction has been remodelled to give a gentle curve for left turning traffic instead of a sharp corner. If the pavement line outside Market Parade is continued in a straight line it would end up roughly at the edge of the traffic island so a good five or six yards have been lost over the years.  The fire station could thus have been reasonably wide (probably about four shop/house fronts worth) but it wouldn't have gone back very far at all.

Just when I thought I was totally confused, Theo Weerden sent me a scan of another postcard of Church Street (above right) which clearly features the fire station. This one is post 1908 as the Lamb's Institute is clearly visible. The arched entrance on the right of the card is clearly the same as that marked as the "Engine House" on the earlier photo. I would suggest that the building in the centre of the picture is the modern day Ladbrokes and so the main fire station building must have appeared since the older photo was taken. This also suggests that although the windows look similar in the older photo, number 37 would actually have been next door and probably set slightly forward of the buildings shown which have room for railings in front of them.

It is these buildings behind the fire station, which are presumably the council offices mentioned previously, which slightly confuse me as there hardly seems to be room for them. Market Parade (the shops at the end of Winchester Road) would seem to be in the way and that was already there in 1902.

After writing the above I came across two more photos of the fire station which makes things a lot clearer and make much of the above text redundant.  However I have left it in place for interest or amusement!

The first photo is a low quality scan of a postcard featuring the fire station. It makes things a lot clearer. I would suggest that the building on the left is now Ladbrokes. The end of Market Parade can be seen in the background on the right and it appears that the buidling behind the fire station may be shoe horned in right behind them.

The second photo has been contributed by Andrea Snowdon and she believes it dates from around 1904. The coach man in the photo is her great-grandfather William George Sidey.

The final twist is that when viewed on an aerial map it becomes obvious the patch of open space where the fire station stood is actually a lot bigger than it seems to be at ground level.

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