This painting is by George William Home Rosenberg, a painter of merit who had paintings hung at the Royal Academy between 1871 and 1884. The painting was commissioned by an unknown person, but due to the area in which the artist lived, it may have been his own want to record the scene. The fire was in London and as far as can be found out, it was about 1890. The story behind the painting was that the parents, who were in their finery, were at the Opera at Covent Garden and were called away because of a fire at their home, they arrived just in time to receive their children, who had been rescued by the Fire Brigade. The location of the fire is opposite Fortnum and Mason, or at least that is the name over the shop to the right of the painting.
The painting was presented to the Ryde Fire Brigade by George Henry Harrison in August 1925, and it is well documented in the Ryde Council records of that time that it should hang in the town fire station. George Harrison retired from Kingston-upon-Thames, where he was at one time Chief Fire Officer, to the Island, and resided at Thornton just outside of Ryde. He became a Magistrate on the Island bench, which in itself was unusual, as at that time it was normal for Magistrates to be appointed to the local bench.
The painting has, apart for a short time while the Station was being modernised, always hung in the Station. However, the ravages of time and fumes from the appliances, together with the aggressive climatic conditions, have played havoc, and the painting had got into such a state that it was almost lost.
The Chief Fire Officer, J.A. Bowker, on his first visit to the Station noticed the painting, and a brief history of it was given to him. It was not too long before the Chief made a further visit to inspect the painting more closely and I, Station Officer B.E. Collis, O.St.J., ended up with the task of getting the painting restored. At the time it seemed a monumental task, but with the co-operation of members of the Brigade, especially Ryde Station, the money came in.
The money was raised by various ways, sponsored swim, sponsored slim, jumble sales, donations etc. Eventually the amount required, £600, was raised, the painting had been saved! Many thanks must be given to Mr Robert Ball for the use of the Westridge Swimming Pool, without his help our task would have been very difficult.
The work of raising the necessary funds for this project has been done entirely by the firemen, organised by Station Officer B.E. Collis helped by the men of Ryde Station.
This painting is of very special interest to all Fire Brigades throughout the World. It was mentioned in several periodicals about 30 years ago, and at that time they did not know where the painting was - we did, but due to reasons prevailing at that time the matter was allowed to disappear, and the painting stayed as a missing item. Now is the time to open our doors. The painting, restored, protected and rehung in a place of safety, will be on view to all residents who would like to see what is a very fine painting which has been saved for posterity.
The Station will be open for viewing on the first Wedneday of each month between 1930-2100 hours.
Station Officer B.E. Collis