History of the Amersham Area

The Fire Brigade

THE FIRE BRIGADE POEM 1902 – WOODROW CALL

The fire-bell rang, there rose a shout
The people of Amersham all turned out,
It was four o’clock in the morning.
Down the street ran the firemen bold,
They dressed as they ran, – though the wind blew cold,
But the fire-bell clanged it’s warning.
Chorus: When they arrived the fire was out.
                There was nothing to do but turn about,
                AT THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING

The doors of the engine-house opened wide.
Elburn and Welch (1) were soon inside
Awaiting their Captain’s orders.
“Why isn’t he here?” cried Wilkins and Free
“Oh!” replied Wilson “Line’s gone to see
But Wilkins is here with the horses.

“Where is Brazil?” was next the cry
As up the street the townsfolk fly;
Whilst the flare of the flames grew brighter.
Out of the window popped bold Brazil’s head
“Drive on!” cried he, “I’ve a pain like lead”.
And they noticed his face grew whiter.

Garton & Gurney (3) still pealed the bell
‘Til Lillywhite (4) told them might as well
Leave off, as the engine were ready.
“Our Captain” (5) cried Line “is fast asleep”.
But Brazil, they knew, was playing Bo-peep,
Though the horses were perfectly steady.

Away went the daring, dauntless six
Without the Captain (here was a fix)
At four o’clock in the morning.
Wilkins was driving with wonderful skill
Along Whielden Lane and then up the hill
Towards the fire in the early morning.

When they arrived the fire was out
There was nothing to do but turn about
It was cold in the early morning.
So back to Amersham they quickly tore
And each returned safe to his own front-door
By half-past five in the morning.

ANON.

(1) Elburn – watchmaker; Welch – butcher); (2) Free – chairmaker; (3) Garton – schoolmaster; Gurney – butcher; (4) Sgt. Lillywhite – policeman; (5) Captain was George Darlington.

Reg Mason’s notes about the Fire Brigade

A call to Coleshill on 5 January 1914 at night, horses collected from WILKINS MEADOW at foot of Station Road, (normally used for coal carts), taken to TAN YARD where the fire cart was kept. Eight firemen in black coats & brass helmets, followed by boys on bicycles, charged off up Whielden Lane, up to Coleshill Cottage, well alight. Black cat jumped from the window onto the roof and scooted into the night, but despite valiant efforts with pumps, the occupants, newly married couple Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Slade were burned to death.

If the fire-bell rang during the day, horses were out delivering coal and were immediately released from their shafts and found their own way to the fire station.

1925 Parish Council proposed to buy a ‘motor’ fire engine and appliances at a cost of £1100. Opposition developed in the town led by ‘Happy Arthur’ who demanded a poll. He was so adamant that the Ministry of Health advised the Council to agree to hold a poll. Hand-bills were printed and ‘Happy Arthur’ toured the town, ringing the Town Crier’s bell and shouting “Ban the Motor and keep your rates down”. The poll was taken at a packed meeting in the Town Hall – FOR 242, AGAINST 525, so the purchase was not made.

1927 After protestations from the firemen themselves, a second poll was taken and passed the proposal.

See also Horace Freeman’s memories of the fire brigade, those of Geoffrey Hadrill and Eustace Alliott’s notes about the fire engine.