Wed-Sun: 10am-4pm

01474 852788 (option5)

Early Firefighting

Recognition of the dangers of fire and the need for steps to be taken in towns and cities to prevent and fight fires date back to Roman times. But after the Roman period the structure and organisation which characterised Roman governance, including fire precautions and firefighting, was much reduced in the Middle Ages. For hundreds of years fire remained a scourge of our towns and cities. A wicked combination of the widespread use of open fires in buildings, the unsafe working practices of bakers, candlemakers and other tradespeople, and a predominance of timber buildings, narrow streets and thatched rooves, meant that fire was an ever-present danger.

You can take a look at some or our Early Firefighting Exhibits here…

Gradually however, during the late Saxon and Medieval periods, change was beginning to occur. There are numerous examples of civic initiatives which, for example, in the 14th Century imposed rules governing the construction of chimneys and hearths in buildings, which were a frequent cause of fire. Other provisions were made to ensure the availability of water for firefighting. Towns and cities were growing rapidly, and the serious, and sometimes devastating fires which occurred periodically, throughout the country led to a heightened awareness among civic leaders, of the human and economic consequences of fires.

Following the great fire of London in 1666, throughout the country there was a fresh impetus to make better arrangements for firefighting. In 1700 Dover was presented with a fire engine, as was Rochester. Other boroughs followed throughout the eighteenth century, which also saw the creation of the first Fire Brigades set up by Insurance Companies, to reduce their losses. Public authorities also gradually began to recognise the need for apparatus to rescue people from fires, and for the formation of organised teams, or “brigades” of firefighters.