Dennis Fire Engines



No reference to fire-fighting would be complete without mention of the worlds most famous fire engine manufacturers - Dennis of Guildford, Surrey. Naturally for the Trust there is a particular sense of  affection attached to the marque, especially as they were for many years the appliance of choice for Brigades of Surrey.

As such we are proud to feature a reference upon this site and look forward to bringing you bespoke content in the future.

In the meantime the following content has been sourced from Wikipedia

Originally known as Dennis Brothers Ltd, the company was founded in 1895 by John (1871-1939) and Raymond (1878-1939) Dennis who made bicycles which they sold from their shop, the Universal Athletic Stores, in Guildford. They made their first motor vehicle in 1899, a De Dion powered tricycle which they exhibited at the National Cycle Show but it was not put on sale. In 1901 the first Dennis car proper appeared, a four wheeler rated at 8 hp again with De Dion engine. About this time John Dennis built the Rodboro Buildings, the first purpose-built motor vehicle factory in Britain, to manufacture motorcars in the town centre. Larger models followed with a 35 hp model in 1906 powered by a White and Poppe engine and this power unit soon fitted to all their models. Commercial vehicle activity was increasing with the first bus being made in 1903 and fire engine in 1908 and the cars took second place and it is doubtful if any were made after about 1915. In 1913 Dennis moved to a larger factory at Woodbridge, on the outskirts of Guildford. In 1919 Dennis bought White and Poppe and transferred engine production from Coventry to Guildford.


A brochure for a Dennis Turntable Ladder with the German made Metz ladder from the 1950's

In 1972 the company was acquired by Hestair Group and renamed Hestair Dennis after a few years of financial difficulties. It was sold to Trinity Holdings (formed from a management buyout from Hestair Group) in 1989 and then to Mayflower Corporation in October 1998.

As of 1990s, the company was no longer a single integrated whole, but was three independent businesses, namely:

  • Dennis Fire - manufacturer of fire appliances.
  • Dennis Bus - manufacturer of buses and other public transport vehicles
  • Dennis Eagle- manufacturer of dustcarts/refuse lorries (municipal vehicles). This company also incorporated the remains of the Eagle Engineering and Shelvoke and Drewry concerns.

Mayflower Corporation sold Dennis-Eagle in July 1999. Dennis Bus and Dennis Fire were incorporated into Transbus International (now Alexander Dennis) in 2001.


 Source Wikipedia

 Dennis Fire Engines

A Reference

The following is a basic list (with hyperlinks), in chronological order of  the chassis produced by Dennis and commonly used for fire appliance construction.

These would then be paired with differing gearbox, engine (famously Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Perkins), ladder (Merryweather, Magirus and Metz) & pump (Godiva) options which would determine the final model type.

Customers could specify bespoke bodywork and up to the introduction of the RS series, the framework would be hand crafted in as, with an aluminium 'skin' (or with fibreglass front/roof panels). 

For the enthusiast it is the recognition of this skilled construction and pairings that makes a Dennis Fire Engine the connoisseurs choice.


Source Wikipedia

Brochure for the Dennis F24, an appliance


  favored by County Brigades including Surrey


 John Dennis Coachbuilders (JDC)

 John Dennis Coachbuilders is a modern day “phoenix rising from the ashes”.   In 1985 Hestair Dennis was having troubled times and made deep cuts in its activities to just a core business which excluded coachbuilding.  A triumvirate of Bill Gunner, Bert Forrest and John Dennis (grandson of one of the original Dennis brothers) headed a group of a dozen ex-employees who pooled their redundancy money to set up a new company, John Dennis Coachbuilders. 

Their first customer was Staffordshire Fire Brigade which had faith in the fledgling company.  The small garage in Merrow was a far cry from the acres of the Dennisville plant on the other side of Guildford, with its own sports ground and rail sidings. 

As with the original Dennis Brothers’ burgeoning growth, within five years the enterprise had outgrown Merrow and moved to the current purpose-built factory north of Guildford.   Customers now included Essex, Devon, Cleveland, Staffordshire, Hereford and Worcester, Cambridge and Surrey.   By 1995, the centenary year of the founding of Dennis Brothers, its scion had become UK market leader. 

The original “Dirty Dozen” were becoming more mature and in 2001 a management buy-in by Alan McClafferty ensured the succession of a strong management team.  To supplement the static fire market, the company tendered for and won a four-year contract to manufacture up to two thousand USAR modules in 2003 for the New Dimension project of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.  This was followed by the community bus launch in 2005. The acreage of the factory has now doubled and the original building has also been increased to more than double the area. 

The company has continued to make steady growth year after year and the wind is set fair for further products and expansion in the years to come.

  Source JDC website

Useful Dennis Links
The records of Dennis Specialist vehicles are held at Surrey History Centre, further information on the archive is available through the following link