Tag Archives: Vestry Hall

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,


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.

1952 Prospects in New Zealand

Prospects in New Zealand

Mitcham displays an interest

Mitcham Vestry Hall was crowded on Wednesday and Thursday nights last week to see a New Zealand Government talkie film on the prospects for emigrants to that country.

The film was supplemented by a more intimate and up-to-date talk by a representative of the New Zealand Government, who invited questions — and got them.

One young Irishman asked if there was any prospect of conscription out there.
“There is. If the need arises,” he was told.

The free passage scheme is now open to single men and women of British race, who are accommodated in hostels. Married folk are not encouraged to emigrate unless than are certain of accommodation and are themselves skilled workers in certain trades.

Questions elicited the information that the cost of living in New Zealand was roughly the same as in this country; and that wages on the average were a little higher. Carpenters, for example, got £9 12s. 7d. for a working week of 40 hours. Builders’ labourers received a basic rate of £8 16s. 6d. Women footwear operatives
were paid £5 10s. 5d. a week.

Source : Mitcham News & Mercury, 24th July 1952

Inflation adjusted, the weekly wages quoted, £9 12s. 7d. is around £270 in 2016, and £8 16s. 6d. is £250, while £5 10s. 5d. is about £160.

1933 Fire alarm test during Fire Brigade Dinner

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 28th April, 1933 page 1

A TEST was tried at the tenth annual dinner of the Mitcham Urban District Council Fire Brigade last Friday night. While the guests and firemen were seated arround the festive board in the Vestry Hall, a fire alarm suddenly and unexpectedly sounded. Consternation was written on the faces of everybody when the firemen jumped to attention and rushed out of the room. Within 70 seconds the fire engine was in the street, fully manned and ready for action. Then it was announced that the alarm was only a test. It sufficed to prove the efficiency of the Brigade even on such an auspicious occasion as their annual dinner, and it also assured the guests, and through them the public, that no chance is taken when the firemen are enjoying themselves, in safeguarding life and property. It was a very effective move.

In 1914 Saxon relics were found near Mitcham Station

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 12 April 1914 to March 1915
Page 28


The Clerk reported the receipt of the following letter from the General Manager of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.


                             General Manager's Office
                                     London Bridge Station, S.E.,
                                            26th May, 1914.

Dear Sir,

I enclose herewith two bronze tin-plated brooches, a bronze pin and iron knife supposed surrounded by a wooden sheath, which were recently discovered during excavations on this Company’s property near Mitcham Station, together with a photograph of same, and as the articles are no doubt of antiquarian interest, I am authorised by my Directors to forward them to you to be placed in the Vestry Hall at Mitcham, where I understand other similar relics found in the neighbourhood are on view.

I also enclose photographs of three skeletons which were unearthed at the same place recently.

I shall be obliged if you will kindly acknowledge receipt.

                         Yours faithfully, 
                                 WILLIAM FORBES.

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 12 April 1914 to March 1915
Page 102

The following letter was read from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Co.


                             General Manager's Office
                                     London Bridge Station, S.E.,
                                            23rd October, 1914.

Dear Sir,

With reference to my letter of the 26th May last, and your reply of the 27th idem, another ornament has been found in excavating gravel near Mitcham Station. Captain Bidder informs me that it is a gold-plated bronze brooch, a beautiful piece of work and important, as its design (purely geometrical without any trace of “animal” motive) points to a very early Saxon period, probably the sixth or seventh century.

I am authorised by my Directors to forward this brooch to you to be placed in the Vestry Hall at Mitcham with the other similar relics found in the neighbourhood.

I also have the pleasure of inclosing a photograph of the brooch.

     Kindly acknowledge receipt.
                         Yours faithfully, 
                                 WILLIAM FORBES.

These finds were near the Anglo Saxon cemetery that was discovered in the Morden Road area, which were excavated over a period from 1888 to 1922. This is Monument No. 400549 on Historic England’s PastView website.

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

Public Fire Alarms

Public fire alarms in Mitcham were taken out of service on 1st January 1953, by the Surrey County Council. This had been delayed a year as the Mitcham Borough Council protested at their removal as they wanted more time for more telephone boxes to be installed. to cover those areas where a phone box was not near an existing alarm. The Borough Council asked the Post Office to install 15 new phone boxes.

Surrey County Council, in charge of the fire service for the county, said the reasons were the cost of the alarms as well as the number of false alarms made. In a three year period to 1951, there were 212 malicious false alarms and 100 were genuine. Surrey County Council said that the Mitcham district had 52 public telephone boxes and 6 police boxes. There were 44 fire alarm points and of these 25 were in range of a public phone box within 200 yards, 13 within 300 yards, 3 within 400 yards and 1 within 500 yards, and 2 were outside this 500 yard range.

The location of these ‘fire alarm points’ can be seen on the Ordnance Survey maps as ‘F A P’, as in this map of the Fair Green.

1950 OS map

1950 OS map

before the public fire alarms, public phone calls sometimes were directed to the wrong brigade by the telephone exchange. For Mitcham, when a call was put through to the Vestry Hall the caretaker would ring the bell to summon the volunteers to the station. Sometimes he wouldn’t hear the phone ringing as he was in some other part of the building.

The street fire alarms were suggested in 1920 by Chief Officer Albert G Wells, who had seen the ‘Gamewell’ system in action in Bromley.

The first public alarms had a direct line to the fire station, where a bell would ring showing which alarm had been set. A ‘watchroom attendant’ at the fire station could then get the Vestry Hall to ring its bell for the volunteers, and when they arrived he could tell them where the alarm had been set off. This system was an invention of A.C. Brown and was widely adopted across London. By 1936, the London Fire Brigade area had 1,732 fire alarm posts. Of the 9,000 calls made with these posts, around 6,000 were genuine and 3,000 false. Of the false alarm calls, nearly 1,000 were due to electrical faults. The Gamewell system was introduced to reduce the number of false alarms due to electrical problems. Mitcham adopted the same system in 1937.

Fire Alarm Post

The Gamewell fire alarm system consisted of circuits of alarms. Each alarm had its own two or three digit number, and the fire station attendant could see which alarm had been set off by that number. The system prevented more than one alarm being pulled at the same time. If a second alarm was pulled, it would wait until the first had finished. This way the fire station could see alarms in the order they were set off.

Mitcham set up 3 circuits of 12 alarms each. The one at the Fair Green had a number of 53, and was in circuit 1. Pascalls had an alarm near its entrance in Streatham Road, numbered 115 and in circuit 2. See this 1937 list.

The alarms worked by pulling a handle, which wound a spring so that when the handle was released, the spring would unwind and turn a ‘code’ wheel. It was the code wheel that tapped out the number of the alarm onto the circuit for the fire station to see.