19 November 2023 - a week of great discoveries

This week like-minded souls have contributed some key fire service history information to Facebook groups with a local heritage appeal.

Captain George William Hutt

For as long as I have been researching the Island's firefighting history I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to unearth a photograph of Captain George William Hutt. 

George's family built the beautiful Appley Towers estate, long since demolished and replaced by Marina Avenue in Ryde, where the sole remnant of the Hutt's estate is the Appley Tower folly adjacent to the beach. George was the son of General Sir George Hutt, K.C.B. George junior served as a Lieutenant with the Royal Scots before relocating to the family seat and remaining a Captain of the reserves. George was inordinately keen on firefighting at a time when his estate was within the boundary of the parish of St Helens, where no fire brigade was present. Despite his relentless appeals for them to form a brigade, the St Helens Urban District Council refused to do so, compelling George to form his own from the staff on his estate. The Appley Towers Volunteer Fire Brigade, under George's orders, were the first to respond when, ironically, his own home of Appley Towers was struck by a severe fire that gutted everything above ground floor level on 22 March 1904. 

This incident compelled the committee members of St Helens UDC, many of whom had substantial investments tied up in prominent local properties, to reconsider the need for a district brigade. When the brigade was eventually formed it was the largest single municipal brigade in pre-WW2 Isle of Wight history, comprising three separate sub-stations at St Helens Green, in Seaview, and at St Johns (now in Ryde) to which George was appointed Captain. 

George's life, his antics with firefighting and persistence marked him as one of the most fascinating of local fire brigade characters and I have long held onto the hope of seeing his face. This week the image above, with some basic information regarding George's life, was shared on Facebook after being extracted from a copy of Hampshire at the Opening of XX Century - Contemporary Biographies. I am very grateful to the person that shared this. 

Newport Fire Brigade - appointment of new firemen in 1880

In the same week that Captain Hutt's image emerged, Wayne Pritchard shared another wonderful item of original ephemera detailing Newport Fire Brigade. Dated 10 November 1880 it appears to be an extract from the minutes of a Borough Council meeting.

Featured in the minutes are the names of former brigade Superintendent James Reynolds, and that of his successor Charles Osborne, both of who were consulted for their opinion in the event that five persons applied for two vacancies within the brigade. 

The two successful applicants were Arthur Stagg, a carpenter of 11 Portland Street, and Obediah Jackman, a stonemason of 40 New Street. The latter was one of the leading activists in the pay dispute that erupted within the brigade in late 1892. Unwisely he and his colleagues attempted to hold the Borough Council to ransom by declaring that if their demands were not met, they would resign en masse in the last week of February 1893. The Council refused to concede and clandestinely arranged the creation of a new, voluntary and unpaid group of firemen, to take over on the given date, rendering the old brigade's dispute powerless to act and compelled to comply with the terms of the resignations they had submitted. Sadly Obediah died four years later at 48 years old after suffering what was reported to be a painful illness. 

The same minutes reveal that one Henry Linington had resigned from the brigade, and that this was the occasion at which Charles Osborne was appointed as superintendent (captain). The three unsuccessful applicants for the firemen's jobs were also named, although difficult to decipher - William Jukes of 22 Pyle Street, John Powell of 4 Cross Street, and Jacob Williams of Melbourne Street who was noted as being an engineer. 

25 August 2023 - Arreton Barns Volunteer Fire Brigade

Today a local man, having read an article on this site, contacted me via email with some photographs of a Land Rover fire tender bearing an emblem suggesting it belonged to the Arreton Barns Volunteer Fire Brigade. The Land Rover pictured was registered in 1971, its most recent MOT expired in 2008. I have no idea what year the photographs were taken but they don't appear to be much older than 15 years or so. He asked me what I knew of Arreton Barns VFB and I have to admit I know nothing.

Can anyone provide any information about the VFB?

UPDATE - within minutes of posting the query on the IWFBF Facebook page, I received two key pieces of information. Firstly that the Land Rover had originally served at IMI Marston in Wolverhampton, a company with a pedigree going back to the 1740's. Secondly that it was purchased not for practical use but as an attraction at the Barns, with the signwriting being an invention rather than the insignia of an actual brigade.

17 August 2023 - 80 years of the Firefighters Charity

Today is the 80th anniversary of the date of the Fire Service National Benevolent Fund's inauguration. It's an important date to mark in the fire service calendar as so many of us, myself, my family and many of my colleagues, plus hundreds more around the country, have made use of the support services offered by the fund, which in more recent times was rebranded the Firefighters Charity.

Read the FFC's own 80th anniversary article HERE

Above - screen extract from the Firefighters Charity website.

2023 July 23 - the origin of Newport Fire Brigade

Today Geoff Pidgeon linked me to an item that appeared in the Isle of Wight Heritage Group on Facebook, submitted by Wayne Pritchett that I believe gives an idea of when the first Newport Fire Brigade was launched. 

I have known for some time that the town possessed a fire engine since the eighteenth century, but this was recorded in a contemporary source as stored at St Thomas's Church and was left in the care of the overseers of the poor. This was typical of the parish approach to engine operation in that era and is not associated with the establishment of a brigade.

What Wayne possessed was a document from 1838 that provides specific details. He explained that in preparation for the 1974 handover of responsibilities from the Borough of Newport to the Medina Borough Council, a clear out of old records was to take place. In particular this affected a substantial store of ledgers and documents kept in a room above the old (long since demolished) mortuary at the Quay. Wayne was able to salvage some items before they were thrown into a lorry and taken to the dump. As a researcher it makes me weep to think that any went to the dump, but I appreciate that no single person can retain such loads.

In one of them he discovered an entry from a Borough of Newport Quarterly Meeting of 6 February 1838 which appears to list the names and salaries paid to the town's first group of firemen (shown below). At present I am having some difficulty deciphering the handwriting in respect of the firemen's names, however I can transcribe the content of the record.

That they have appointed

William Atkey as Superintendent Fireman at a salary of Five Pounds per annum.


William Stephens

Joseph Stephens

Edward  ???????

Jacob Salter

William Dale

Edward Russell

William Doroden

as Firemen at salaries of One Guinea per annum. The Committee have not yet filled up the number of eleven recommended by their last report, some of those chose by this committee having declined to act.


Percy Scott - Mayor

(followed by two more indecipherable signatories)


Thank you Wayne for sharing this important piece of IW firefighting history.

2023 February 22 - London Fire Volunteers of Helsinki

The London Fire Volunteers are not connected to the history of Isle of Wight firefighting, but when I discovered their existence I knew it was too interesting a subject to ignore. A tenuous connection is found in Anthony Gilkison, the driving force behind the LFV, who was a movie producer that in the 1950's produced a short good natured film concerning two children and their adventures on the Island, which can be viewed in full at no cost at the British Film Institute website - A Letter from the Isle of Wight. 

The purpose of placing this item within IWFBF News, is that within the past week I have been in contact with Jari Auvinen, curator of the Helsinki Fire Brigade Museum.

Although neither he nor I can converse in one another's language, the wonder of Google Translate has enabled effective communications by email. By this method Jari has furnished me with a wonderful amount of information, documents and photographs to enable my aspiration to include the LFV in a future IWFBF publication focussed on UK firefighters who served overseas. 

What comes next is a weekend in London, which gives my wife and I a chance for a little break whilst also visiting the Metropolitan Archives where over 400 pages of LFV documentation are filed.

2023 February 5 - Fireman Cyril Hayward

After posting an image and story on the IW Heritage Group page on Facebook on 4 February 2023, I received some positive feedback from the family of the gentleman featured in the post - Fireman Cyril Hayward.

Cyril was a baker and confectioner of the family bakery at his home address 70 Pyle Street, Newport, when he volunteered for the AFS in 1939. He remained in the service when it was absorbed into the National Fire Service in 1941, and continued to serve beyond disbandment of the nationalised service by remaining with the County Brigade at Newport until retirement in 1960.

His war service was marked by being one of the few Island firemen who volunteered for service with the proposed Overseas Contingent. Cyril passed the rigorous application process to be accepted into No.6 Column, in the expectation of being deployed to Northern Europe to provide fire protection in Allied Lines of Communications Zones during the advance on Germany.

Sadly for Cyril, and hundreds like him, No.6 Column were one of the many Columns disbanded by the Home Office in December 1944 when British Army Staff proved reluctant to deploy civilian firefighters into the war zone.

Today his family sent me two photographs I hadn't seen before. At the top Cyril is with his company of No.6 Column in 1944 (unfortunately I don't know which Company he served with) and underneath an earlier photo from 1942 showing Cyril at the NFS workshops at Winchester Garage, Fitzroy Street, Sandown. Cyril's story relates to the opening reference in Overseas Firefighters of the UK

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