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Station Focus: Carrington Fire Brigade (1888 - 2018)

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to commemorate the centenary of Carrington Fire Station at a ceremony held on Thursday 5 April 2018. Should you wish to use any of the information and pictures provided we ask that you please reference the Museum correctly and contact the Museum for permission where applicable.

The First Carrington Fire Brigade (1888 – 1893)

When Europeans first settled in the Newcastle area, what would later become Carrington was nothing more than an island that sunk beneath the water with every high tide. Over the following years the area was reclaimed and by the 1860s settlement had begun on the island that had been made from mud. As such, the first report of a significant fire that we have on the island did not occur until 1887, the same year that Carrington was proclaimed a municipality. The fire occurred in the early hours of Wednesday 22 June 1887 in a house that was one of a row of three. The cause of the fire was unknown and it quickly spread to the neighbouring two homes. With no local Fire Brigade little could be done to stop the fire and all three buildings were burnt to the ground. Given the time of the fire it was lucky that no lives were lost.

The first steps to form a Fire Brigade in Carrington occurred on 16 November 1888 when the topic was raised at the Carrington Council’s fortnightly meeting. It was decided that the first step required in establishing a Brigade was to apply to the Department of Lands for a piece of land on which to build a Fire Station.

Whilst the Council sought out a suitable place to erect a Station, steps must have been taken separately to form a Brigade, as in April they reported to the Council that the Brigade wished for a Station as soon as possible. Where the Brigade was meeting at the time remains unknown, though we know they were meeting regularly as in November 1889 they reported to the Council that they had met for twenty practices since forming and that their hose reel was in good working order. Once again they impressed upon the Council the importance of having at least a shed built to store the appliance and they also asked for funds to purchase uniforms for the Brigade members.

It wasn’t until June 1890 that Carrington Council accepted the tender of John Lacy for the construction of a Fire Station. The Department of Lands had appointed the Council as temporary trustees of the land and within a short time the Brigade had their much needed Station to store their hose reel.

Carrington Volunteer Fire Brigade, c.1893. [Ken Magor Collection]

The Second Carrington Fire Brigade

Despite this advancement for the Brigade they quickly received criticism in the local paper as by May the following year the Station was always locked and the Brigade was never seen practicing. The author of the article claimed that the Brigades within the Newcastle suburbs vied to be the first to attend a fire, however the Carrington Brigade was in a state of lethargy and did not partake in such proactive activity. The Brigade is reported to have attended fires in Carrington if the need arose, however in June 1893 the Council called a meeting with the purpose of ‘resuscitating’ the Carrington Fire Brigade.

The meeting was provoked by a grant of £100 (approximately $15,000 today) from the Government for the use of the Brigade and it was therefore felt that to best utilise the new funds the Brigade should be reconstituted to be more efficient. The Secretary of the Honeysuckle Fire Brigade (today No. 260 Newcastle) was invited to speak at the meeting and he impressed upon the Council the importance of allowing the Brigade to operate under its own steam, with as little Council interference as possible. Whilst the Council would form this new Brigade and act as trustees they should leave the day-to-day operations of the Brigade to those within the Brigade. Given the Council was administering the meeting this was a controversial opinion, however there seemed to be little resistance amongst Council to the idea.

A week later the newly formed Brigade met for the first time and was heartened by the number of donations towards the Brigade’s upkeep they received. The tender of Lance and Styles was accepted for the supply of uniforms and it was decided to enlarge the existing Station by 12ft (3.6m) on the north side. The Brigade came together for their first drill on 5 July 1893 and was praised for how smart they all looked in their new uniforms. They also received adulation for their work in expanding the Station as this had been completed by the Brigade themselves, who had volunteered their time and labour.

Just months after the Brigade was re-constituted in 1893 they attended the Newcastle District Demonstration. Hailed as the most infant Brigade in the district, this did not affect the result with the Brigade securing three second places. To celebrate the Brigade hosted a social gathering in a local hall that evening. In what turned out to be an exciting 24 hours for the Brigade, just a short time after the social ended the Brigade was called to attend their first fire since being reconstituted.

In late 1898 Carrington Fire Brigade celebrated their purchase of a new bell for their Station. Cast by Rodgers Bros. for £22 (approximately $3,250 today), the Brigade took pride in the fact that the bell was thought to be the largest in the district.

Carrington Fire Brigade outside Carrington Fire Station, c.1918. [Museum of Fire collection]

The Fire Brigade’s Act is Extended to Carrington

With the start of 1910 the Fire Brigades Act of NSW was extended across the state and this saw Carrington Fire Brigade come under the auspice of the Board of Fire Commissioners NSW and become a part of the Newcastle Fire District. One of the first things undertaken by the Board once they had assumed control of the Brigade was to arrange for a Firefighter to be on duty at night in the Station. As it was, no one was on duty of a night at the Station which delayed response times. The Board therefore arrange for a partition to be erected in the watchroom and bedding provided so that each night someone could sleep at the Station.

Despite this positive first step the transition of the Brigade from being controlled by Carrington Council to the Board of Fire Commissioners was not a smooth one. This process delayed the Brigade receiving a much needed new Station as it wasn’t until 1914 that the Board officially obtained all rights and control of the Brigade.

Carrington’s Fire Station

In 1917 the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW notified Carrington Council that they were going to construct a new Fire Station for the local Brigade. Tenders were called immediately and the task of building the new Station was awarded to Mr. S. Box of Woollahra for the sum of £758/12 (approximately $70, 153 today).

Whilst on an inspection visit to see the progress of the Station, the Clerk of Works discovered that a post erected by the Tramway Department denoting a tram stop was located directly outside of the engine room door. This was obviously a concern for getting any appliance in or out and so the Board had to approach the Tramway Department to have it removed.

The new Fire Station was officially opened by the President of the Board of Fire Commissioners NSW on 25 March 1918. The building was constructed on budget and had an engine bay large enough to store three appliances. Amongst the guests at the opening were the Secretary of the Board, the Clerk of Works, District Officer and Carrington Mayor.

Carrington Fire Station was built in 1917 and officially opened in 1918. [Museum of Fire collection]

- Story by Museum of Fire Heritage Team


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