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Blunham Fire Engine House

The Fire Engine House on a map of 1884
The Fire Engine House on a map of 1884

The first mention of the parish fire engine, which would, at that date, have been a hand wheeled or horse drawn cart with ladder, buckets for water and a hook for pulling burning thatch off roof, is in 1848 in the vestry minute book when "the churchwardens were requested to see that the Fire-engine, and buckets, are in good repair" [P76/8/1]. In 1859 it was resolved "that all the expenses of the Engine be for the future paid from the Surveyor's rate, and that the Surveyors provide for the repairs, exercise and management of the same" also "That an Engine house be built on a suitable site, under the direction of the Surveyors, and that the Earl de Grey be requested to grant the site" [P76/8/1]. The Surveyor was a vestry official who was also in charge of maintenance of roads in the parish.

In 1862 it was noted that the new parish of Mogerhanger would be asked "to concur with them in building an Engine house on ground belonging to both Parishes where the Cage stands, the share of expense to be borne by the Parish of Moggerhanger not to exceed £10 at the most". Six days later it was duly resolved: "that the Surveyors build an engine house on the plot of ground belonging to the parish where the Cage stands" [P76/8/2]. The cage is the lockup, which was moved and is now at the rear of 54 Park Lane.

The Fire Engine House in the late 19th century [Z50/19/30]
The Fire Engine House in the late 19th century [Z50/19/30]

In 1864 it was noted: "The parties appointed at the vestry of November 9th 1863 to make arrangements for the maintenance of the Fire Engine, having decided to defray the expenses thereof by a voluntary rate, the Assistant Overseer was desired to make such rate at 1½ pence in the pound, any person refusing to pay it forfeiting his right to the use of the engine" [P76/8/2].

In 1881 it was resolved not to buy a new fire engine but to repair the current parish engine. Eight years later it was proposed that: "the Fire Engine be taken out for exercise at least four times a year, and that the Payment of the Salary of the Caretaker be conditional on the Engine being properly cared for and exercised". This now sounds like more than a simple hand or horse drawn cart and it may be that the parish had acquired a "steamer", perhaps second hand. A steamer, as the name suggests, was a steam engine, mounted on a cart, which pumped water into hoses to play on fires. Later in the year the vestry noted: "Mr. Sharpe undertakes to take care of the Engine to keep it in repair and in order for use, and to take it out for wet drill every six months as near as possible to Lady Day and Michaelmas Day for the sum of fifty shillings" [P76/8/2].

The site of the fire engine house October 2009
The site of the fire engine house October 2009