Is this the country’s dearest fire engine?

The Dennis 'N' type fire engine
The Dennis 'N' type fire engine

A fire engine that dates back 100 years has been sold at auction for £39,000.

The Dennis ‘N’ type machine was used to protect John Dickinson’s Apsley paper mills after being bought by the company in 1914.

The Apsley Mills fire brigade on the The Dennis 'N' type

The Apsley Mills fire brigade on the The Dennis 'N' type

Enthusiasts had been expecting it to go for £14,000 less than that, but Barry Hutchinson, from the north east, couldn’t resist shelling out extra for the vintage vehicle.

The machine was used by the John Dickinson private fire brigade from 1914 to 1933, when it was replaced with a more modern British Leyland vehicle.

The brigade was set up in 1883 at a time when conventional firefighters took much longer to reach the scene of a blaze.

The paper – highly flammable in itself – was being made in old buildings with lots of wooden structures, making John Dickinson’s production process very high-risk.

The Apsley Mills fire brigade remained until the paper mills closed in 1991 and became a heritage site.

They are now home to five vintage fire engines – a 1938 Dennis Ace and Dennis Trailer pump, an 1890 four-man horse drawn Shand-Mason Steam Pump, a 1953 Green Goddess and a 1980s ex-Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Water Tanker.

Former Apsley Mills firefighter Paul Sturman, 72, now gives tours of the site – but said the Dennis N type was too expensive to be bought for it.

Mr Hutchinson says he will still pop in to visit with the vehicle when he is visiting the London to Brighton Historic Commercial Vehicles Run in autumn.

His engine fell under the hammer in a Bonhams auction in Staplehurst, Kent, on Friday, June 13.

Previous owner Michael Banfield paid for just £3,750 for the machine when he bought it from a Kent-based sheet metal fabrication firm called Arnold’s in 1976. Mr Banfield died two years ago.

The Dennis ‘N’ type was one of many in his large collection of vehicles and vehicle-related products – including busses, vintage cars, other fire engines, posters and motoring signs.

Mr Sturman said there has been a 430 per cent increase in the price of veteran vehicles in the past 10 years, so they make a good investment.

He said: “Anybody from three to 83 is grabbed by the sight of a fire engine.

“They are just attracted to them – and the older the vehicle, the better.

“Like any other interest you get deeper and deeper into it – and if you can afford to buy vintage machines, that’s what some people do.”

You can learn more about the Apsley Mills fire brigade here