The scene of the fire that affected Frank Cantelo's business premises on 18 October 1911.

Captain Frank Cantelo passed away on 9 January 1929 aged 79.


Frank was born in Newport in 1849. His early life was initially difficult to research as unlikely as it seems there were two Frank Cantelo's born in Newport within twelve months.

Our Frank was the son of Martha from Salisbury. When the 1851 Census was taken Frank was just two years of age but his mother was listed as a widow. The family, that comprised Martha, Frank and his two elder siblings, lived in Crocker Street with another Cantelo family, George, Sarah and four children, resident next door.

Ten years later the family were still living in Newport but this time at 132 High Street. At what stage Frank relocated to Sandown isn't known, but he was certainly there to be appointed the first Captain of Sandown Fire Brigade when it was established in New Year 1879.

Frank also established himself as proprietor of a successful business (see the advertisement below from the local Press).

Frank's business undertakings were successful and long lasting, unlike his career with the fire brigade. All appeared to be going well for the fledgling brigade as Press reports remarked on drill sessions and the acquisition of both manual fire engine and escape ladder within the inaugural months. 

At a meeting of the Local Board on 21 October the same year, his thoughts were duly considered. He submitted a letter, read by the clerk, stating his disappointment that over the course of the preceding months the average attendance of firemen for drills was just five out of a total thirteen under his command. He added that the main reason given was that the non-attendees had been working overtime or normal hours that extended through the designated drill sessions. He recommended to the Board that his men be recompensed for their time at drills. They agreed and sanctioned one shilling per man per session. For the same meeting he also submitted examples of badges worn by other brigades and recommended that such be sought for his men bearing the initials 'SFB' at a cost of 3s 19d in total; again the Board agreed.

Eight days later a fire at the town's ice rink was attended by all but two of the firemen who were working out of town. Frank's report was accepted willingly including his reflection that the engine, equipment and firemen had worked without fault but a lack of easily available water was an issue. 

Three weeks later the Works Committee, who were delegated the control of the fire brigade, reported to the Board that the £10 recently acquired from the Norwich Union Office should be invested in various firefighting tools for the brigade. This was agreed but the Board didn't entertain the committee's remark that for £60 the firemen could be equipped with uniforms and helmets. The Board were hardly likely to accept the need as the committee itself admitted the matter was raised in reference and not in recommendation. In all probability the suggestion came from Captain Cantelo and his firemen and they would have been disappointed with the rebuttal.

Then came a mix-up of sorts over payment for the firemen's services. On January 10 1880, a little under twelve months since the brigade was established, the Board adopted the report of the Works Committee regarding an outstanding sum of £8 17s owed collectively to the firemen. Further remarks in the Press that; the committee also recommended that in future payments should be made only to enrolled members; suggests some acrimony in the matter of pay, and to whom it was due.

Later in the same report the IW Observer correspondent reflected a dispassionate response to what must surely have been an emotive outcome; A letter was read from Mr Cantlow (sic), captain of the Fire Brigade, resigning his office as superintendent. The resignation was accepted. 

And there ended Frank's association with the fire brigade.

In fact that's not entirely true for his business premises in St John's Road were to be affected by a severe fire on 18 October 1911. Not only was this fire notable for its scope and firefighting exploits, but because it was, for the era, extensively photographed. 

Frank passed away at home 3 Swallow Villas, Station Avenue, on Wednesday 9 January 1929. In eulogy the IW Chronicle remarked on his ironmongery business, his active interest in public affairs, founding membership of Sandown Rifle Club and a keenness for horticulture. 


Rest in peace Captain Cantelo.