Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


Southall Fire Brigade. 

                         In May 1913 the annual competitions of the South Midland District of the National Fire Brigade took place in the Park. A large scaffolding rescue tower was erected and special canvas tanks set up for water. It went on all day with us kids very excited watching hosepipes being used. Mr. Long ( “Longy” to us kids ) was the assistant parkkeeper who we used to play up and it was not till years afterwards that I discovered that he was my wife’s uncle. There was the ruins of a large house, which we were told was the remains of a private asylum burned doiwn in August, 1883. It was this fire that started the idea for the formation of the Southall Volunteer Fire Brigade. Mr. C.N. Abott,  who had been commended for his actions at the Park fire, became the first officer. In April, 1901 a fire station was built onto the Town Hall at a cost of £175. Men were recruited, a great percentage from Abbott Bros. staff, and training began with a horse-drawn fire engine. When the brigade was required to attend a fire a maroon was set off to summon the crew, who would dress and would often have to wait whilst the horses were brought in from where they had been working. Although great efforts were made to get to the fire in the shortest possible time it had a great many snags. Although I cannot remember these teething troubles some of their later efforts, however, have left memories in more ways than one. Robinson’s flour mill, Norwood Road, was destroyed by fire 2nd January, 1912; Endacott’s drapers at the corner of Western Road and King Street burned down 27th November 1914; there was a large grass and hedge fire at Ford’s field September 1913; John Lines’s wallpaper factory at the rear of Balfour Road burned down 2nd September, 1917. The last three each cost me a hiding. Sent out on an errand, the fire engine dashed past and forgetting everything I followed it to the scene of the fire. When eventually I got home it was a hiding and to bed with no food. For the record, here are the names of firemen I knew personally: Mr. Harry Willis ( officer ); Mr. Albert Smith ( officer ); Merrrs Haisman senior and Burney Haisman; Bill Strickland; W. Ward, Harry Parslow, Bill Turner, H. Beasley, Martin, Tom Smith, Harry Comfort. Mr. Comfort I believe was the first professional. It seems rather ironic that the present fire station is on the site in the High Street where used to be the works of Abbotts, who did so much to get it started.