History of the Wivenhoe Fire Service

Wivenhoe's first fire brigade was started in 1904

Peter Hill

The Wivenhoe Fire Auxiliary Service
Photo provided by Clive Peck
LtoR: John Munson, Mr Abrahams, Freddie Parker and the name of the person on the right is not known.
Photo via Graham Oliver and Clive Peck
Wivenhoe's fire station building in the yard behind what are now the Town Council offices
Photo by Toni Stinson
Sammy Oliver, one of Wivenhoe's first firemen
Picture of John Turner who also served as a volunteer Wivenhoe fireman
Photo Reproduced from: “Wivenhoe : its attractions, pleasures and eccentric natives” by Dick Barton
Retained firemen at the fire station in Brook Street, all probably workers at Cooks Shipyard.
Photo supplied by Helen Douzier and names by Graham Oliver, Sammy Oliver's son.
The Wivenhoe Fire Engine at an Open Day in 2002
Photo by Peter Hill
Uniforms in the new Fire Station, in Colchester Road
Photo by Peter Hill, taken in 2002

When, in August 1872, a major fire broke out in the upstream boat yard of Thomas and John Harvey around midnight, it took an hour for a horseman to gallop into Colchester to fetch the local fire brigade and for them to return. It didn’t help either that the tide was out and the suction pumps had to be placed at the end of a slipway far away from the fire engine itself. The fire was so bad that this small fire-engine apparently soon became engulfed in the flames too. The blaze destroyed offices, warehouses, buildings, sheds and even houses.

Perhaps this fire was the catalyst for Wivenhoe to have its own fire-engine because in November 1878 there is mention of a substantial fire in Husk’s boatyard which destroyed much but at least one building was saved.

In 1904 the still relatively new Wivenhoe Urban District Council formed a fire brigade of 11 men. A maroon would be fired from the back of the Council offices to summon the men. The fire brigade stored their barrow, bucket and hoses at 30 Alma St a short way down the road from the offices which were in a large house called Little Wick, on the corner of High Street and Alma Street.

Later the Auxiliary Fire Service was formed which initially used the shed in the yard where the Wivenhoe Urban District Council had moved up to in the High Street. The firemen had their own pegs with their names inscribed above them. To see pictures inside this shed – click here

They moved from there to a sail loft opposite the Brewery Tavern in Brook Street. No longer did they have to make do with a barrow but were now equipped with two cars and a towing vehicle with a trailer pump at the rear.

In 1967, Wivenhoe got a ‘proper’ fire engine and the sail loft in Brook Street was modified to make it fit inside. It was still operated by ‘retained’ firemen many of whom worked close-by in the two shipyards.  Some 20 years later, Essex County Council were replacing these older fire engines with a new model which was much larger than the one stationed in Brook Street. By that time, the shipyards had closed and the volunteer firemen no longer worked close to the fire station.

Eventually, in 1990, a new fire station was built in Colchester Road, opposite the Flag PH, so that it could take the much larger fire engine.

Note: Graham Oliver, Sammy Oliver’s son, has been able to identify all of the firemen who are seen standing outside the Brook Street fire station as follows: (left to right)  not known, Sammy Oliver, Mr Herbert, John Turner, Mr Chamberlain, Walter Foster, not known, Bob Oakley, James AE Munson, George Abrahams, Mr. Halls.

This page was added on 05/03/2017.

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