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Collection Highlight: 'Saved' by Charles Vigour

Have you noticed the banners hanging in the Museum, showing a fireman saving a young girl? This painting is called ‘Saved’ by Charles Vigour (1860-1930), a British Impressionist & Modern painter who painted this artwork in 1891-92. The painting depicts a firefighter in a British uniform topped with a brass helmet, carrying a young child out of a burning building. Little is known about who the subjects of the painting are and where this burning building was, however, it has become an iconic symbol and painting around the world.

'Saved' by Charles Vigour, 1891-92.

'Saved’ was first exhibited at the Royal Academy, UK, in 1892, and in 1894 was put on display at the Atkins Art Gallery in Southport. Alderman James Wood of Southport County Borough Council then purchased the painting in 1894, presenting it to the council who put it on display at their Fire Brigade headquarters. During World War I and II, ‘Saved’ was placed in storage under the Southport council offices and wasn’t rediscovered until the late 1960s by John Perkins, the chief fire officer of Southport CB FB, who put the painting back on display. During a major reorganisation of local government in 1974, ‘Saved’ was then moved to the Fire Service Technical College at Moreton-in-Marsh where it is still exhibited today. Some believed that the painting depicted Captain Shaw of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (now the London Fire Brigade) and his daughter outside the entrance to Winchester House, which was Shaw’s former home and now the London Fire Brigade Museum. However, it is disputed whether the house in the painting is the Winchester House, the figure does not look like Captain Shaw, and he may not have had a daughter. You can read more about ‘Saved’ in the Fire and Rescue International magazine here.

Although we don’t have the original painting in our collection, we do have a print of the original artwork and several sculptures and paintings that were inspired by Vigour’s work. One such sculpture in our collection, that is currently on display, was crafted by Alan Somerville for the Museum of Fire in 2000. Alan Somerville is a critically-acclaimed artist that has crafted various public works including the two iconic Bronze Diggers on Sydney’s Anzac Bridge, the Bull at World Square, Sir Henry Parkes in Centennial Park, Sir Roden Cutler at Manly, and the three bronze statues of soldiers at the Australian War Memorial.

Come and take a look at this statue which is exhibited on our Bravery Wall underneath the ‘Saved’ banners. Keep your eyes peeled as you'll be able see to a variety of versions of 'Saved' throughout the Museum!

Other recreations of ‘Saved’ in our collection include this etching by De Brackeleir:

This postcard (below) in our collection shows a reversal of the ‘Saved’ image and reads: "There was a giddy young maid. The house was on fire where she stayed. When the fireman arrived she sobbed and she sighed. Then carried him out and cried 'Saved'." Along with a small note at the bottom of the photograph that says, "with apologies to Charles Vigour”.

If you are interested in having your own copy of ‘Saved’, we have the painting printed onto a fridge magnet available in our shop here. This can be purchased online or instore. We are open 7-days a week 9:30am-4:30pm so stop by and say hello to our team! Have a look out for the banners and the sculpture next time you visit the Museum!

- Story by the Museum of Fire Heritage Team.


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