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Bradford on Avon Fire Brigade

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Bradford Fire Brigade 1897

Bradford on Avon Fire Brigade in 1897

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There was probably some form of fire brigade in Bradford on Avon by the beginning of the 19th century. The “engine”, and that of Trowbridge, attended the disastrous fire that destroyed the Staverton woollen factory in 1824, but too late to save it.

The power to set up a fire brigade in Bradford on Avon was provided for under the provisions of the Bradford Town Improvement Act of 1839, but was not taken up. A fire brigade seems to have existed in Bradford at least by 1856, when it attended a fire at the carpenter’s workshop of John Long in the Bullpit. The brigade was reported at various other fires through the 1860s and 1870s. It turned out in 1883 for the fire that destroyed the Bullpit factory in 1883 and in October of the same year, at the opening of the town water supply, demonstrated using the supply and their equipment. At the same time (and with some of the same members) the Spencer Moulton rubber company had its own brigade.

In 1904 the Urban and Rural District Councils jointly set up a Fire Brigade, but legal difficulties about funding forced the Rural District to withdraw until 1907.

With the threat of war looming, the Auxiliary Fire Service was set up in boroughs and urban districts, including Bradford, under the Air Raids Precautions Act 1937 and started in January 1938 with a team of men and women volunteers as well as the retained firemen.

With the war under way the Fire Services (Emergency Provisions) Act 1941 formed a National Fire Service. Bradford’s unit attended many bombings, including Bristol, Bath, Coventry, Exeter, Weston-super-Mare, Southampton and Plymouth, as well as nearer places.

The National Service was dissolved under Fire Services Act 1947 and Wiltshire County Fire Brigade was formed in the following year, with a station in Bradford. The 1997 local government reorganisation caused the service to become Wiltshire and Swindon Combined Fire Authority and now, from 1 April 2016, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The Auxiliary Fire Service was reestablished in 1948 and, along with Civil Defence, was disbanded in 1968. Its fire engines were the Green Goddesses, which have only recently been scrapped.

The brigade was originally based at the Town Hall, where the equipment was stored. The Wiltshire brigade’s fire station was in what is now St Margaret’s car park, until a new station was built off the station approach in the 1960s, after those buildings were demolished. The new station held two engines, but today there is only one.