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Woburn Fire Stations

Woburn has had a fire station since the 18th century. The town had suffered at least three severe fires in its history, in 1595, 1645 and 1724 so a station was obviously a great benefit. In 1996 it was mooted that the station might be closed. Divisional Officer C. Hills, who was Divisional Commander (Operations) at Bedfordshire County Fire and Rescue Service put together a detailed report in defence of the station which was presented to the Chief Fire Officer [PCWoburn10/2]. The efforts of D. O. Hills and the Chief Officer were successful and Woburn not only kept its fire station but had a new one built in London Road. D. O. Hills wrote a short history of the town’s fire stations as a preface to the report and this is reproduced below.

"Although the art of fire fighting must have existed for centuries, reference to specific firefighting equipment at Woburn is not made until the eighteenth century, when the responsibility of fire fighting lay with the Parish. Woburn was provided with a supply of leather fire buckets and a town ladder for this purpose".

"The first mention of a fire engine in the town is in 1755 [P118/5/4]. It is thought Woburn had no more than a water tank on wheels, with the water pumped manually and directed through a pipe. There is no reference to a proper hose being used in Woburn until 1823 [P118/5/4], although they had been known in England since about 1700. The engine appears on numerous occasions in the churchwardens’ accounts, as it was apparently in frequent need of repair. It is believed the Woburn engine was a manual one, pulled to the fire by a group of men".

The blue door marks the old fire station - May 2012
The blue door marks the old fire station - May 2012

"An engine house for the fire engine was built in front of the old Tudor school building in Bedford Street in the latter half of the eighteenth century. For more than a century, the engine and its house were under the control of the churchwardens, being situated next to the old church. The engine house still stands and has now been enveloped by the lower school in Woburn".

"By about 1880, the fire engine was horse drawn and firefighters wore wooden-topped helmets. , replaced this engine with a new steam fore engine, but it is believed the repair costs were too high and the town gave it back to the duke".

"In 1920, it is recorded that the Fire Brigade in Woburn consisted of a superintendent and twelve firemen".

"Wartime brought the National Fire Service in 1941, when independent fire authorities were replaced in order to cope with the emergency situation. This service remained until 1948, when brigades were once again restored to the local authorities. During the time as part of the National Fire Service, Bedfordshire became a division of Number 12 Fire Force, with their Headquarters in Stevenage [Hertfordshire] and were under the command of a Divisional Officer (later a Sub-Area Commander) based at Luton Fire Station".

The former Fire Station March 2012
The former Fire Station March 2012

"The N. F. S. brought with it a modern trailer, trailer pump and appliances. The engine house could no longer accommodate the new equipment and after representations, the new Duke of Bedford, Hastings, built a new fire station in Leighton Street, opening it himself in May 1947".

"Today, there are 11 firefighters at Woburn, including a Station Officer, Sub Officer and Leading Firefighter. The station is still located at the present site, and once again, improved firefighting technology and equipment has rendered the building inadequate. Representations have been made and there is once more a need to build a new fire station".

Woburn Fire Station March 2012
Woburn Fire Station March 2012