Early Days: Pre - 20th Century

By Michael Bissett-Powell
Part 1 of 5

It is difficult to say with accuracy when organised fire-fighting commenced in Surrey.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666 people countrywide were concerned enough to take action and in 1676 Strode & Wharton patented a fire-engine, followed in 1678 by the design of Robert Ledingham.  Others were imported from Holland but the popularity of these early “manuals” was finally secured in the 1720’s, when Richard Newsham of London, a pearl button maker by trade, designed and manufactured his “new water engine for the quenching and extinguishing of fires”.

Possibly the first rather crude “manual” engine in Surrey was used by the Ewell Volunteer Brigade.  The Watch-house in Church Road off the High Street is still preserved and is believed to have been constructed in 1770. Half was used as a “lock-up” to keep the village inebriated and minor miscreants in overnight, before being hauled before the magistrate in true Dickensian fashion.  There are records which indicate some form of fire engine was kept in a private house some seven years before then, in about 1763. The rather basic “manual” still survives and is on display at the Bourne Hall Museum. The hoses were made from stitched canvas and more water probably leaked out than ever reached the fire.

 Ewell Circa 1800's


Nearby Epsom had a similar arrangement at around the same time, with a Watch-house next to the clock-tower and a wheeled escape to supplement their pump.

It is well known that the Insurance Companies were among the first to establish organised brigades in an effort to reduce their losses from fire and it is still possible to see “Fire Marks”, small signs on the walls of old buildings to demonstrate with whom they were insured. It is commonly believed that a call to a fire was sometimes a competition between rival insurance brigades and that if the “Imperial Insurance Company” were the first to arrive at a fire in a house insured with “The Sun”, then they would just stand and watch, or demand the insurance business of the property-owner in return for their services; however it is more likely that this an urban myth. These insurance company brigades only really established themselves efficiently in major UK cities. In London, Glasgow and Liverpool they later developed into Salvage Corps, specifically charged with the protection of property from fire whilst working in co-operation with firemen. (Interestingly, there are pictures of a horse-drawn Salvage Corps tender in rural Horsham, West Sussex, but this was very much the exception).



Leatherhead Fire Brigade

Fire Stations Of THe PEriod

Below is a list taken from the register the Trust is collating.

Some period stations still exist so why not take a look when in the area. We would be grateful for any information you may have to help make this list complete

(C)  Conserved

(D) Demolished

(E)       Existing

 Station and Address (if known)
 C BETCHWORTH, The Old Forge, The Street.  
 51.233593N / 00.266461W
 E BLETCHINGLEY, St. Marys Church, Church Lane 51.142887N / 00.055818W
 E CARSHALTON -1, Church Hill, High Street (pictured below)
 51.365117N / 00.163423W 
 C CHARLWOOD, “Vintners Wells”, Ifield Road 51.154201N / 00.225543W
 D EPSOM -1, Watch house, the Clock Tower, High Street 51.333113N / 00.268592W
 E ESHER GREEN, More Lane, junction Esher Green 51.372284N / 00.367070W
 C EWELL -1, Church Street nr. High Stree  51.349603N / 00.249125W
 D GODALMING -1, Moss Lane, High Street  51.111042N / 00.365185W
 D LEATHERHEAD -1, Gravel Hill, North Street  51.349603N / 00.249125W
 D MICKLEHAM, Old London Road, opposite church  51-267387N / 00.324070W
 D SOUTH HOLMWOOD, Horsham Road, Bechets Green Rd  51-191865N / 00.324222W 
 D SUTTON -1, The Public Hall, Hill Road  51-362197N / 00.194052W
 R WESTCOTT,  Unknown
 R WARLINGHAM, nr. “The Horseshoe” Public House  51-183401N / 00-031378W
The curiosity that is the old Carshalton Fire Station