The history of firefighting in Kings Langley

Kings Langley Fire Bridge 1965 include Reg Bailey, Don Baldwin and Vic Lea.'>Kings Langley Local history and Museum Society cared for by Dacorum Heritage Trust
Kings Langley Fire Bridge 1965 include Reg Bailey, Don Baldwin and Vic Lea.'>Kings Langley Local history and Museum Society cared for by Dacorum Heritage Trust

With the laying of water mains through Kings Langley in 1895/6, six fire hydrants were installed and in January 1898 the parish council asked schoolmaster Mr E. Toms to form a volunteer fire brigade under his captaincy.

Well-known village personalities formed the first brigade – names like G.W. Cook, W. Cromack, F. Dollimore, W.H. Green and M. A. Young will be familiar to anyone who has lived in the village for any length of time.

The parish council bought a hand cart together with several lengths of canvas and leather hose. A hydrant standpipe and key was also purchased but the former proved to be the wrong pattern.

On January 10 a Mr J. Timberlake was paid the sum of one shilling to transport the handcart from the railway station to the premises of Mr W.G. Cook, wheelwright. Mr Beeson, the village blacksmith, was paid the sum of fourpence to fashion a chisel to lift the lids of the hydrants. Dickinsons of Apsley donated two copper nozzles.

The members were called out by sounding a foghorn made for a sailing boat, a reed instrument rather like a giant bicycle pump. The bottom half was held in by the foot, while the outside casing was raised to the full extent of the arms. A steady downward pressure created a bull-like roar that could be heard for a fair distance.

The brigade were called to a fire in Chapel Croft, Chipperfield, in March 1908, to a marine store and second hand clothes shop, the premises of a Mr Monk.

Kings Langley to Chipperfield is a fair distance to pull a handcart, but fortunately Dr Fisher possessed an eight horsepower De Dion car and towed the handcart to the fire.

The brigade made a prompt attendance, extinguished the fire and spent the rest of the time clearing the contents of the premises, returning home in the early hours.

Old logbooks record several fires, one in 1910 when Hill Farm caught fire needed the assistance of Hemel Hempstead and Dickinson’s fire brigades. The barns were burnt out but the house and rickyard were saved. There is also a record of a rick fire at Hill Farm in 1914 while units of RASC were quartered there.

In 1921, Ovaltine gets a mention when water was pumped from the canal, using hoses from Watford and Kings Langley brigades, to reach a fire beside a cornfield on the poultry farm.

The brigade also attended the railway accident near the Railway Arms in 1935 but could do little until Watford Brigade arrived because the limited length of hose they carried would not reach the incident from the nearest hydrant.

Brigade members were now using their own cars to transport equipment to fires, the handcart being too slow.

In 1936 the parish council purchased a 16 horsepower Sunbeam car, which was converted by local craftsmen to carry the equipment.

The fire bell was presented by Mr Matthew Arnold. The long, old fashioned copper nozzles were shortened by the local coppersmith, a coat of red paint and the legend Kings Langley Parish Council Fire Brigade written in black and yellow on the side and the brigade was in business.

Black oilskins and Wellingtons were provided for the firemen. The total cost of this purchase and conversion was £36.

With this new appliance in service a call was received to a fire at Chipperfield Manor House. The brigade astounded the occupant, Mr Brousson, by being there in 10 minutes, possibly saving this fine old building from destruction.

With the outbreak of war in 1939 the fire station was manned day and night. A Scammell trailer pump was supplied by the rural district council and a lorry was loaned by Mr Sunderland to tow the pump, if required.

This meant that water could now by pumped from rivers, ponds and canals, providing better cover to outlying farms.

The ranks were swelled by the recruits needed to provide 24-hour cover.

After the war, fire brigades were taken over by the county council with directives from the Home Office to standardise cover.

The old volunteer system was replaced by the retained fireman, paid for his services and equipped with every modern aid, including a radiation detector for radioactive substances used in industry.

The old Scammell trailer pump was replaced with a modern water tender, and the brigade was snowed under with paper work – N. Mills