Uckfield’s firefighting history – brigade gets horse-drawn steamer

Uckfield’s Volunteer Fire Brigade took delivery of its first mechanised pump in 1910. It is believed to have been a horse-drawn Shand Mason steamer. Picture below.


The Brigade still had no horses of its own and relied on Bourners, the local carriers, to supply them. One of Bourners’ employees, Fred Packham, drove the fire engine, writes Ian Ritchie in this second part of his history of the town’s fire service.

Shortly after the First World War, Uckfield Fire Brigade lost its volunteers status and came under local authority control – initially the Uckfield Urban District Council and then the Uckfield Parish Council.

Local publican, Thomas Harden took over as Captain and the station moved to the rear of his public house, The Alma Arms, in Framfield Road.

By 1925, Harden was referred to as the chief officer and the brigade received its first motorised fire engine. Firemen were still summoned by maroon fired from the pub garden until well into the 1930s.

Thomas Harden is pictured here with his new fire engine behind The Alma Arms 1927.


1933 saw one of the most disastrous fires in the town’s history when despite the efforts of the brigade with the assistance of the East Grinstead and Heathfield Fire Brigades, Uckfield House was severely damaged.

Harden’s plans to secure a new purpose built fire station started in 1935 when the parish council looked to buy and convert an existing building.

This plan was abandoned in 1936 when the Keld Avenue site was bought with a £300 donation from the parish council.

The contract was awarded to local building firm Durrant Bros who constructed the new station incorporating a roof mounted tower and a cottage at either side for the captain and engineer and their families.

The total cost of the project was £4000 and on April 29 1938, Major Guy Larnach Neville, occupant of Uckfield House, (later to be 4th Marquess of Abergavenny) performed the opening ceremony which was followed by a celebration dinner at the Maidens Head Hotel.

The picture below was taken during the opening ceremony.


And here are Uckfield’s 16 firemen lined up in front of their new station.


With the Second World War looming, the role of the Uckfield Fire Brigade would change dramatically with the formation of The National Fire Service.

Read about the first recorded fire brigade in Uckfield in part one of this history of firefighting in Uckfield.

And here is more about the modern day Uckfield Community Fire Station.

See also:

Uckfield’s firefighting history – Second World War

How Uckfield fire service developed after Second World War


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