THE HISTORY OF EAST GRINSTEAD - Online Book

The rise and progress of the town and the history of its institutions & people.

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PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS. 243
THE FIRE BRIGADE.
The first Fire Brigade was formed in East Grinstead in the year 1863. Long prior to this time the town had possessed two fire engines, which were kept in the west room of the church under the belfry. At a Vestry meeting held on February 6th, 1852, it was resolved that the belfry of the Parish Church was "an incon­venient and improper depository" for the parish fire engines, and the parishioners decided to request Lord De la Warr to appropriate some building for their safe custody. But his Lordship apparently took no heed of the request, for the engines were still in the belfry more than ten years later. These "engines" were very primitive machines indeed. The pumps were mounted on small open trolleys drawn by hand, and when a serious fire broke out on November 9th, 1863, at Messrs. Stenning and Sons' timber yard, then situate in the field now occupied by Buckhurst House and grounds belonging to Mrs. Thompson, they were found to be of very little use. The pumps were not in working order, the supply of hose was very scanty and what there was was leaky. The need of some change was evident. A public meeting was held, and the following gentlemen were appointed the first Fire Brigade Committee: Rev. J. N. Harward (who died a few days later), Mr. G. Head (chairman), Mr. A. Hastie, Mr. T. R. Burt, Mr. C. Absalom, Mr. C. Sawyer, Mr. H. Gatland, Mr. William Head (the then landlord of the Crown Hotel), Mr. William Stenning and Mr. E. Steer, sen. Their first work was to have the engine pumps mounted on carriages to be drawn by horses and make the vehicles such that twelve or fourteen firemen could also ride on them. This work of re-construction was carried out within three months by Mr. John Tooth at a cost of £95. A Fire Brigade was organised and its first members were: Edward Steer (the late), captain; John Tooth, engineer; James Cooper, R. Puddicombe, R. Cheal, Wm. Tooth, F. F. Payne, George Hills, William H. Steer (who subsequently became Captain and was accidentally killed
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