Peter is doubling up his contribution to this blog with a small display at CoffeE7, showing how things looked from their cafe window in 1900 - with the fire service in mind. So, pop along, have a coffee, and catch up on local heritage!
We've trawled through the excellent Newham Story website (see here), local photographs, maps, trade directories and Peter's detailed knowledge of the Fire Service, and put the following together.
The first record we can trace of a fire service presence in Forest Gate is in the 1890 Kelly's Street Directory, which simply states that there was a "Fire Engine Station" on Woodgrange Road.
This mention is confirmed by the 1893 Ordnance Survey Map (see below, for extract), which shows a "Fire Station" at the junction of Woodgrange and Sebert Roads - where it appears to be adjacent to a public toilet.
|1893 Ordnance Survey Map detail,|
showing Fire Station at junction
of Woodgrange and Sebert Roads.
An early 20th century postcard (see below) shows a small wooden hut with a tall ladder in front of what is now the dentist. The detailed enlargement, immediately below this, clearly shows what was then known as a "Street escape station" - effectively a local sub-station for the West Ham Fire Brigade. The borough service was then based adjacent to Stratford Old Town Hall, the outline of which can still be seen today.
|Postcard of junction of Woodgrange|
and Sebert Roads c1900
|Street escape station, Manchester|
- how the local Forest Gate facility
would have looked, c 1900
By 1908 a more effective local fire service sub-station had been built on the corner of what was then Forest Street, and is now occupied by the Lord Lister clinic, on Woodgrange Road. (see 1920 Ordnance Survey map, below for location). n.b. there has been some change in the layout of the streets in the years since this map was made.
|1920 Ordnance Survey map detail,|
showing fire station at the end of Forest Street
|Forest Gate Fire Station c 1914,|
with 1914-15 mayor,
Henry Dyer centre front row
Motorisation of the fire service fleet - particularly after the war - almost certainly sounded the death knell of the Forest Gate fire service presence.
We know that the Forest Gate depot replaced its horse-drawn vehicle with a motorised one in 1920, but it was not a hitch-free process. Prior to the introduction of the motorised fire engine, the Forest Gate station operated with one horsed fire escape, two horse carts and three firemen. The annual revenue cost of the service was a little under £630.
Although a motor vehicle was introduced to Forest Gate in 1920, by 1922 its big end had broken and the service was forced to acquire 2 horses from the council's stables - presumably to draw the pre-motorised fire vehicle to local incidents. A temporary backward step in the onward march of progress!
Motorisation, however, meant that vehicles could reach Forest Gate swiftly from the main West Ham station in Stratford, and so the pressure was on to rationalise services and close the Forest Gate sub-station. It was, in any event, a fairly quiet facility; having attended only 15 incidents in 1919, seven the following year and 18 in 1921.
A two-shift system - greatly resisted by strong trade unions at the time - was being introduced in Stratford in the early '20s, which would have meant a more comprehensive service for the borough generally.
The Forest Gate sub-station was finally closed on 31 May 1923 and the premises were taken over by the electricity department of West Ham council, which generated and supplied electricity in the borough, at the time.