Tag Archives: Albert Wells

1932 : Narrow escapes in fire

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

Outbreak At Tooting Junction

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.


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.


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.”

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.

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.

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.

1933 : Fire Brigades are not compulsory

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 10th February, 1933.


Mr. Albert O. Wells, chief officer of Mitcham Fire Brigade, speaking at a meeting of Reigate firemen on Saturday, said the fire brigade law of this country needed altering.

At the moment, he said, it was not compulsory for a local authority to maintain a fire brigade, and the protection of life and property became the responsibility of a minority largely helped by a system of voluntary service.

There were piles upon piles of properties in this country unprotected from risk of fire in any way.

Mr. Wells also gave details of an experiment now going an in Surrey for a County Fire Board, organised in four divisions to account for every square inch of the County.

Mr. Wells hoped Surrey would go down in history as the pioneer in adopting a system that would eventually become general throughout the country.

Fire Alarm Posts

For around 30 years it was possible for the public to call the fire brigade without using a telephone. Fire alarms were made available across the town, mounted on posts, typically near factories.

Each alarm, when pulled, would send its number to the fire station, using a direct line. The fire brigade would know where to send the crew, who would be able to work out for themselves where the fire was when they got there.

The alarms were withdrawn from service in 1953.

In 1937 the chief fire officer’s report gave a list of the locations of the 36 fire alarm posts. OS maps show the position of an alarm as ‘F A P’, or ‘Fire Alarm Post’.

From the minutes of the
Fire Brigade, Baths and Library Committee
Tuesday, 14th April, 1937
page 541

Gamewell Closed Circuit Fire Alarm System, in three circuits, with 36 succession type boxes, four circuit switchboard, automatic repeater, and visual indicator.
Circuit 1

Station fire alarm 55
Church Road corner of Batsworth Road 15
Western Road junction of Church Road 18
High Street Colliers Wood outside tube station 23
Denison Road opposite Miller Road 25
High Street Colliers Wood corner Robinson Road 27
Norfolk Road opposite Harewood Road 31
Hawks Road junction of Turner Avenue 35
Fleming Mead junction of Alexandra Road 36
Tooting Junction near Grenfell Road 42
Links Road corner of Hailsham Road 44
Seely Road opposite Cromer Road 46
Woodlands corner of Cavendish Road 51
Upper Green corner of Upper Green West 53
Lavender Avenue corner of Steers Mead 54
Haslemere Road junction of Church Road 61-16

Circuit 2

Streatham Road junction of London Road 113
Streatham Road opposite Pascalls 115
Streatham Road corner of Park Avenue 117
Greyhound Terrace corner of Marian Road 121
Grove Road between Woodstock and Warminster Way 123
Carshalton Road near Mitcham Junction 152
London Road opposite Morden Road 164
Edgehill Road opposite Beecholme Avenue 231
Caesars Walk opposite Walsingham Road 243
Bramcote Avenue opposite Mitcham Park 131-10

Circuit 3

Stanford Road junction of Windermere Road 125
Northborough Road opposite Beckway Road 128
Manor Road near Robinhood Close 133
Castleton Road junction of Commonside East 134
Commonside East corner of Tamworth Park 141
Sherwood Park Road opposite Lexden Road 143
Rowan Road corner of Stanford Way 212
Beech Grove junction of Dahlia Gardens 213
Galpins Road corner or Manton Way 215
Longthornton Road junction of Rowan Road 223-10

This list was part of a report by the Chief Officer, Albert G. Wells, M.I.Fire. E.

Maps of Locations

Fire Alarm Posts are identified by the letters F A P on the map.







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