Category Archives: Fire Service

1932 : Narrow escapes in fire

From the Norwood News – Friday 19 February 1932 via the British Newspaper Archives.


NARROW ESCAPES IN FIRE
Outbreak At Tooting Junction
A LEAP FOR LIFE

Nine persons had narrow escapes when an upstairs flat in Tynemouth-road, Tooting Junction, caught fire at three o’clock on Sunday morning.

There are two self-contained flats in the building the ground floor being occupied by Mrs. A. Patterson and her daughter. The top flat is tenanted by Mr. and Mrs. A. Jobson and their family of five children. When the outbreak was discovered, Mr. Jobson woke his family, and actually carried his young children to safety. All were in their night attire, but were able to dress.

Mrs. and Miss Patterson were roused and quickly escaped.

A SPRAINED ANKLE.

Mr. Jobson returned to his flat after giving the alarm and making sure that everybody was safe but the flames had spread so rapidly from the moment of alarm that his approach to the staircase was cut off, and he had to jump from a first floor window into the garden below. This is a distance of 15 feet, and he slightly sprained his ankle by the jump.

Mitcham Fire Brigade were summoned by the Tooting Junction fire alarm, and Chief Officer A. E. Wells and five men, with engine and tender, arrived in quick time. Water was obtained from a hydrant in the road. The flames at that time were breaking through the roof. Once the brigade got their hose at work, the outbreak was speedily extinguished, but not before the top front room, used as a sittingroom, and a small box room, with the entire contents, had been destroyed. A portion of the roof was also burned through. Other parts of the two flats were damaged by water and heat, and the place will need thoroughly overhauling.

FIREMEN INJURED.

During the excitement, Station Officer A. P. Riley, of the Mitcham Fire Brigade, was cut on the lip by a slate when the roof fell in, and Fireman Pugh slightly injured his hands when the piano fell. Mr. Riley and Mrs. Jobson, who was suffering from shock, were taken in the police utility van to Wilson Cottage Hospital for treatment. ” I was awakened by smoke fumes,” Mr. Jobson told one of our reporters. ” The front room then resembled a furnace. I got any wife and family out of the house just in the nick of time. Two of our canaries were suffocated by the heat.”

Notes
1. The area known as Tooting Junction was part of the Mitcham Urban District (the boundary was the river Graveney).
2. The public fire alarm used was probably near the London Road end of Grenfell Road.

1924 : Fireman Aged 7

From the Belfast Telegraph – Tuesday 05 February 1924, via the British Newspaper Archives. which requires a subscription.

FIREMAN AGED SEVEN.
DRIVES MINIATURE TENDER.
REMARKABLE CAPACITY.

When Mitcham Fire Brigade turned out yesterday people in the streets were amused to see following at a long distance behind the engine a smaller fire tender complete in every detail pedalled by a very small boy fully equipped as a regular fireman. It was a model exact in every detail — just a third the size of the Mitcham motor tender and escape — made by Fireman A. Palmer Riley, of the Mitcham Brigade, for his 7-year-old son, Alexander, who is as keen as his father on fire engines and fire brigade work. This was young Alec’s first appearance with his wonderful machine.

His father, who is a master plumber and sanitary engineer at Collier’s Wood, later told a “Daily News” correspondent — “My son is a born fireman and runs after fire engines wherever be sees one. He continually worried me with questions, so in my spare time I made him an engine, or rather a tender for himself. I finished it on Saturday. It is an exact scale model of the Mitcham tender, minus the driving engine. It is made of wood, steel, and brass, the rod work being old gas tubing. A steel tank inside it will hold two gallons of water and what is called a first aid supply.

“A five foot escape is on top, two chemical extinguishers at the rear made out of salt tins, and a complete tool outfit and hose piping are carried. Two electric headlights and a searchlight and a resounding brass warning bell, all made by myself, are other main features.”

Alec wears a brass helmet and axe, also made by his father, and a full fireman’s uniform made by his mother. Mr. Riley is a remarkable fireman. He speaks French fluently, and understands modern Greek, Italian and Spanish. For years he travelled as a highly skilled craftsman in all the countries of Europe for big London firms.

From Ancestry.com:

1911 Census

Alexander Palmer Riley, aged 32, was living at 10 Park Road, Colliers Wood with his wife Alice Gertrude, 29, and their daughter Alice Eileen, aged 2. His occupation was listed as Plumber Gas and Hot Water Fitter.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England; Freemasonry Membership Registers

On 16th October 1917 he is listed as a Regimental Sergeant Major, residing at the Holborn Military Hospital.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations)

He died in 1962 leaving £2,664. His address was 2 Glebe Path, Mitcham.

See also report on a fire in 1932

Grove Lodge Garage

Grove Lodge Garage was described in a news item on page 1 of the 24th February, 1933, Mitcham News & Mercury, as being at Tramway Path, near Mitcham Station, and kept by Frank GUYATT, builder and contractor.

BIG BLAZE AT A GARAGE
Fighting the Flames in the Snow
Factory Saved

Considerable damage was done by a fire which broke out shortly before six o’clock on Saturday morning at Grove Lodge Garage.

The discovery was made by Mr George Potter, of London Road, who informed the police, and they summoned the Mitcham Fire Brigade..

Chief Officer Albert O. Wells promptly turned out with one engine and a complement of men. The other engine, also fully manned, followed shortly afterwards. There was a blizzard of snow at the time, and the firemen experienced great inconvenience. They found a large corrugated iron building ablaze from end to end. Plenty of hose and a good supply of water enabled the firemen successfully to cope with the outbreak and keep it from spreading. The direction of the wind helped them.

The Damage

The garage was burnt out, two motor cars and a miscellany of goods, machinery, etc. being destroyed, running into several hundreds of pounds. The fire attacked a neighbouring factory, but this was saved, though police and willing helpers salvaged a valuable quantity of chemical food stored therein to make sure the fire did not affect it.

The firemen were handicapped by many tons of burning rubber refuse in the buildings, which caused dense fumes. Several tons of copies of the Talmud (Jewish books of law), which were unfolded and unbound, caught fire and were destroyed.

At one time the blaze was so terrific that it was actually seen by a milkman in Carshalton Road, two miles away.

Nobody was hurt, and the firemen left after several hours’ hard work, during which they had the satisfaction of saving some very valuable property.

The chemical food referred to may have been Lactagol.

1956 : Mitcham Fire Brigade Station Officer Retires

From the Norwood News – Friday 05 October 1956

NO MORE FIRE CALLS FOR HIM

FIFTY -ONE-YEAR-OLD Mr. H. S. Shepherd, Station Officer of Mitcham Fire Brigade, slid down the emergency pole on Monday morning but not to answer a call.

It was a farewell gesture.

For when Mr. Shepherd came off duty after a 72-hour spell at 9 a.m., he began his retirement.

He leaves the brigade four years earlier than is necessary. Recent changes in conditions enable officers to retire on pension after 30 years.

Mr. Shepherd was born in Mitcham and joined the brigade when he was 19. Apart from the war years, he has been with it since. In 1926, Mitcham fire brigade consisted of a chief officer, an engineer sub-officer — and Fireman Shepherd.

“A BOX”

“The engine was a box on four wheels — but what a machine! It won competitions all over Surrey.”

“It had solid tyres, but it could travel at 45 m.p.h. — faster than engines today, hampered as they are by traffic.”

When there was a fire, a bell, and later a siren, in the Town Hall, called council roadmen and gardeners from their jobs.

They donned uniforms and helmets as the big Merryweather roared down the road.

“Fire-fighting was not as easy then as it is today . . . we had no wireless.”

During the war, Mr. Shepherd worked with the National Fire Service. He was in the thick of the London blitz.

He became Station Officer at Mitcham in 1950.

NEW HOME

This week he will be moving with his wife and children (Roger, 10, and Irene, 20) from the station house to the home on the edge of the cricket green, which he has owned for some years.

“I shall take it easy for a bit,” he said.

“And for the first time, 1 won’t have to sleep with the telephone next to my bed.”

On Sunday. Mr. Shepherd was presented with a barometer by members of Mitcham Fire Brigade, and with a gift voucher by the officers.

Council depot, Church Road

Council depot that had its main entrance on Church Road, east of Church Place. Shown on this OS map of 1953 as Corporation Depot, this site is now the housing estate of Morland Close.

1953 OS map

Parts of the north wall along Love Lane remain, and an entrance, now bricked up, can be seen at the junction with Edmund Road.

Photo taken April 2016

New Articles
Norwood News – Friday 06 March 1931

FIRE AT COUNCIL DEPOT.

Mitcham Fire Brigade were called on Tuesday morning to an outbreak at the Council’s depot in Church-road. When they arrived with their appliances, they found the surveyor’s motorcar was ablaze. It transpired that an explosion, caused by a petrol leak in the carburettor, had started the fire. The brigade quickly extinguished it, and saved Mr. Riley Schofield his car, only the fabric being damaged.


Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

F. Joyce & Co., sheet metal workers

Listed in the 1930 commercial directory as at 261 Church Road, Mitcham, telephone no. 1562.

A fire at the factory reported in the Norwood News – Friday 04 April 1930, which referred to it as a tin factory:

TIN FACTORY FIRE.

Mitcham Fire Brigade were called on Saturday noon to an outbreak at Messrs. Joyce and Co.’s tin factory, Church-road, and found that a shed at the side of the premises had caught fire. They quickly extinguished the flames, and confined the damage to a quantity of wood.

1912 : Mitcham Fire Brigade get a Merryweather Fire Engine

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council on 30th July 1912:

To the Fire Brigade Committee,

Gentlemen,

I beg to report that the Demonstration of the New Petrol Motor Fire Engine, carried out by the Brigade on July 27th under the instructions of Messrs. Merryweather’s representative, was satisfactory in every way, both as regards augmenting the amount of pressure of water available in the mains and also for river work, together with deep suction lifts (see attached figures of tests.)

In view of meeting the capabilities of the new engine I would suggest that additional hose and extra stand-pipes be carried to enable the Brigade to collect the water from a few hydrants when necessary.

It is a pleasure to state that from a practical point of view the Council now possess one of the best combinations of machinery for fire protection that is possible to obtain.

Yours obediently,

A.L. JENNER, Superintendent

clip from Merton Memories photo reference Mit_Public_Services_7-4 copyright London Borough of Merton

The tests referred to in the minutes above showed that mains pressure, from street hydrants, was 50 lbs per square inch but at the hoses this was reduced to at worse 33 lbs. The new fire engine though brought the pressure up to 200 lbs. When drawing from the river Wandle, with a 10ft. vertical suction lift, 120 to 200 lbs pf pressure was achieved.

It was proposed by Mr J.M. Leather, and seconded by Mr A. Dendy, that the Council write to the Metropolitan water Board to draw their attention to the low pressure in the mains.

The Fire Brigade Committee recommended that the current steam fire engine be sold, with adverts placed in the “West Sussex Gazette”, “The Fireman” and other suitable papers.

Mr E.E. Mizen proposed that an additional £20 be added to the fire brigade budget for the new hose and stand-pipes suggested by the superintendent. He noted that this would bring said budget up to £290.

The Clerk reported that after the demonstration, the members of the Council, the two Fire Brigades and the Superintendents of several of the neighbouring Brigades, were entertained with a substantial meal at the Vestry Hall.

In the report to the Finance Committee, a cheque for £224 15s. was paid to Merryweather & Son for the motor engine.


Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Parish Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.