As Fire and Rescue NSW’s (FRNSW) official heritage partner, the Museum of Fire is often approached to assist in uncovering the origins and ownership of items housed within FRNSW stations. The final heritage reports produced in response to these enquiries complement our regular heritage work of writing brigade or station-specific histories. Today we would like to share the heart-warming story which saw Orange Fire Brigade’s billiard table rehomed to a local charity following consultation with the Museum.
The Orange Billiard Table
When Orange Fire Station was constructed it included a “Billiard Room”; a common facility found in most stations of the period. Billiard rooms offered a social area within the working space and the tables specifically were utilised in debriefing after incidents. When Orange Fire Brigade came under the auspice of the Board of Fire Commissioners a table had not yet been supplied. Following the Divisional Officer’s visit in July 1910, the Brigade were informed that the Board would not supply a table but if they could raise enough of a guarantee they could employ any of the major manufacturers to build one for the station. The Board did sometimes (albeit rarely) supply these tables, but the report from the Divisional Officer told us that that this was not the case in Orange.
(The above illustration of Orange Fire Station shows that a billiard room was planned for. This plan comes from the Museum's archive).
Question of Ownership
The Brigade did eventually obtain a table themselves, likely c. 1910-11. The manufacturer Heiron and Smith dated the table to c. 1900, which fits in with the time period proposed. Although the table remained in the station for over 100 years, it was concluded that ownership remained with the Orange Fire Brigade. The Brigade has a history dating back to 1869, long before a physical Station was built to house them. Initially formed as a Volunteer Brigade, the present team comprises both retained (on-call) and permanent firefighters who jointly retain ownership over this historic table.
The Museum's heritage team were able to come to this conclusion after trawling through countless records and it is thanks to the immense attention to detail of one of our team that we were able to complete this research. Unlike modern records you can't simply type a word into a search bar and hope to get a hit. This research took a considerable amount of time to ensure the information we were providing Orange Fire Brigade was correct.
Finding the Billiard Table A New Home
Although a beautiful centrepiece at Orange Fire Station, the billiard table fell into disuse over time. FRNSW had also identified the need to increase training room space at the facility, which supported the decision to rehome the table. The Museum of Fire and FRNSW heritage policy states that an item should remain within the local community. Orange Fire Brigade identified three different charities that could benefit from the permanent loan of the billiard table. Ultimately, a deciding vote was cast to loan the table to the Ronald McDonald House at Orange. Rebecca from Ronald McDonald House said:
“we are all so thrilled and feel extra special to be given the opportunity to share the history of Orange Fire Station with the families of sick children. The billiard table brings families going through similar circumstances together”.
Ultimately this was a great outcome for all involved and the Museum acted as the professional liaison between FRNSW and the charity to facilitate the long-term loan agreement.
The Museum's Heritage Team enjoyed being able to assist Orange Fire Brigade and this is just one of the many ways that the Museum is able to fulfill its duty as official heritage partner to FRNSW.
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team