*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the centenary and re-opening of Manly Fire Station in December 2021. 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 Establishment of a Fire Brigade in Manly Beach
It was in 1877 that a major fire occurred in West Esplanade destroying four homes. Without direct communication with Sydney and no fire brigade the locals had to use buckets to extinguish the blaze. As a result, funds were raised by the local community and a hose reel and manual engine were purchased. A station was established in Market Square on land owned by the Council and under the brigade’s first Captain, Mr. Rowe, the volunteer brigade became operational. The manual engine was christened “The Blanche” at a ceremony attended by many of Sydney’s other volunteer fire brigades in July 1878.
Due to the brigade’s isolation from the rest of Sydney when the Fire Brigades Act was introduced in 1884, creating the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), Manly Beach Fire Brigade remained relatively unaffected. While in the city the need for brigades to meet specific requirements to remain operational were established this doesn’t appear to have been enforced on the Manly Brigade until two years later.
In 1884 the brigade was connected to the MFB Headquarters by phone, but it wasn’t until 1886 that the brigade registered and became a part of the MFB. At this time the brigade’s name is officially noted as having changed from Manly Beach to simply Manly Fire Brigade.
In 1897 the MFB selected a site to build a new fire station in Manly. As the area continued to grow and develop it was decided that an upgraded fire station was required. The new station was erected for approximately £800 (approximately $125,000 today); this figure includes both the land and construction.
When the new station was completed, the old station was returned to the local Council who had paid for its initial creation. The new station was officially opened by Charles Bown, the MFB Chairman on
25 February 1898.
Over the coming years additional land was acquired for the brigade and extra accommodation added onto the existing building. Following the establishment of the New South Wales Fire Brigades (NSWFB) in 1910, which extended the Fire Brigades Act across the state. A raft of new changes were implemented. The main impact for the Manly Fire Brigade was the introduction of permanent firefighters to the brigade. On 1 December 1915 a Station Officer and three permanent firefighters were assigned to Manly Fire Station. Though this is the first clear reference we have to permanent firefighters being assigned to Manly Fire Brigade it is noted in the 1912 NSWFB Annual Report that a permanent firefighter was assigned to the station. It is likely that a permanent firefighter was in residence at Manly Fire Station because in December 1914 the brigade received a Simonis Fire Engine, imported from England. It was uncommon for the NSWFB to assign such modern appliances to solely volunteer operated stations. Often a new fire engine was accompanied by the arrival of a permanent firefighter.
By 1916 the entire Manly Fire Brigade was staffed by permanent firefighters, however there were issues in housing all staff so the need for a larger fire station was put to the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW.
Manly’s New Fire Station, 1921
After many years of “adding-on” to the existing Manly Fire Station the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW made the decision in 1920 to sell the existing site and build a more appropriate station for the growing needs of the area.
As Manly was isolated from other metropolitan stations, the new fire station being erected had to be self-contained and have the necessary equipment to manage any fires that occurred. The new Fire Station was to be of three storeys, thereby enabling the firefighters to see a long way off which together with fire alarms and the telephone would make for an efficient system. Furthermore, the station was to house two motors as well as large ladders making it one of the largest stations in the state.
The new site occupied lands in what was the “Fallon Estate”, a property that had been owned by well-known vigneron and wine merchant James Fallon. He had died in Manly in 1886 and his estate passed to his brother. The land was located at the corner of Sydney Road and Thornton Street.
The foundation stone for the new station was laid by the President of the Board, the Hon. E.H. Farrar on November 22 1920. The new building was ready for occupancy on 17 August 1921, and it was shortly after this that the new station became operational.
The accommodation at the new station was for an officer and three married firemen, in addition to quarters for single men and a recreational room.
While the old station was sold for £5,343 (equal to approximately $379,832 today) the new station was erected at a cost of almost double, £10,978 (approximately $780,422 today).
This 1921 fire station is today 100 years old and listed on the NSW State Heritage Register which states;
“Its Federation Arts and Crafts design, quality construction and large size reflects its importance during a period of rapid residential and commercial development in the area. It is a local landmark and has significance to the local community for its continuous use as a fire station over many generations”.
-Station Book and this extract compiled by Museum of Fire Heritage Team