Station Focus: No. 38 Pyrmont (1881-2016)
*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the re-opening of Pyrmont Fire Station back in 2016. 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 Pyrmont Volunteer Fire Brigade (1881-1886)
On Saturday 26 November 1881 some 2,000 people congregated on the green facing Union and Pyrmont Streets to christen the appliance of newly formed Pyrmont Brigade. Ten Brigades met at Number 1 Station, Haymarket and paraded from there to the new Station. Bands played as the procession passed through the city and the new appliance was decorated in a lovely assortment of flowers. The new manual appliance could be serviced by 14 men and was made within the NSW colony. During the Christening ceremony there was a commotion when the temporarily-erected stage the dignitaries were standing upon collapsed. Two children were injured when scaffolding became air-born however no one was seriously hurt.
Though the first volunteer Brigade of Pyrmont operated from a Station in Union Street it was never registered with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The Brigade was disbanded in 1886 after William Bear, Superintendent of the MFB, wrote the following in the 1885 Annual Report;
“I may here inform your Board that the Pyrmont and Ultimo Volunteer Fire Company may well be considered disbanded, as they have paid very little attention during the past year even to their own district, and are now trying to sell their plant.”
The Establishment of a Fire Station in Pyrmont
On 25 August 1904, the site of the current Pyrmont Fire Station was resumed from a Mr. Mathew Harris at a cost of £1,425 (approximately $209,000 today). It wasn’t until March 1905, however, that the Board accepted the tender of Mr J.C. O’Brien to erect a fire station on the site. Prior to this there was much discussion about the erection of a fire station in Pyrmont as in March 1904, Superintendent Alfred Webb had already secured an appliance for use by the Brigade. He stated that if a temporary building could be erected he would make the appliance available for use as at the present time it was being used as a spare appliance at Headquarters.
In August 1906, prior to the opening of the new Pyrmont Station, Superintendent Alfred Webb had recommended to the Board of Fire Commissioners that the strength of the Brigade at Pyrmont be increased to ten men to facilitate the manning of the Station. This increase was approved, raising the number of permanent firefighters within the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to 176.
Designed by Government Architect, Walter Vernon, the new Station was erected at a cost of £6239 (approximately $877,000 today). The Station was occupied on 18th December 1906 and the first firefighters reported for duty at 4pm that day. Though there was no official opening held for the Station, on 20 December 1906 a number of Board Members inspected the new Station.
Pyrmont Fire Station Closed (1945-1959)
During World War Two (WWII) Pyrmont Fire Station was reconditioned to assist with the War Effort, with auxiliary workshop premises established to disperse the amount of work from headquarters. Following WWII, Pyrmont Fire Station was closed as the NSW Fire Brigades underwent a re-structure. It was believed that more modern vehicles were now available and hence fewer Fire Stations would be needed with the appliances able to travel faster and further.
On 9 September 1946 the possibility of re-opening Pyrmont Fire Station was discussed, when the Town Clerk implored the Board of Fire Commissioners to consider providing more coverage and security to the area. The Board responded by stating that;
“So far as Pyrmont is concerned the Board desires to point out that this portion of the City of Sydney was always successfully covered by Headquarters and by the facilities provided by the Brigades at George St West, Glebe, etc., and since the re-organisation with the concentration of the staff at more convenient and strategic points, the Board’s experience has entirely vindicated its decision to re-organise the fire protection services in the Metropolitan Area… The Board, in the light of its experience, can see no reason to justify a replacement of the service at Pyrmont that makes six firemen available for a turn-out to fires.”
Initially, after the Station was closed it was used as a relay station, which meant that it was used for the receiving and transferring of alarms and the supervision of telephone and automatic alarms and sprinkler systems. Fire engines were also housed in the Station building and maintained as standby appliances, available for use when required while the quarters within the Station were still occupied by members of the Brigade attached to other Stations.
In 1951, a motor vehicle maintenance section was established in the Station as part of a program to permanently decentralise workshop activities from headquarters.
On 23 December 1951 all uniformed staff were withdrawn from Pyrmont Fie Station.
Pyrmont Fire Station Re-Opened (1960-1992)
After a review of the fire protection afforded by the Stations located in Sydney, the NSW Board of Fire Commissioners decided to re-open Pyrmont Fire Station as well as those at Ryde and Mascot. On 16 December 1960 Pyrmont Fire Station was re-opened at 7am when District Officer Cruise and Station Officer Flynn called the role. At 8:26am Deputy Chief Officer Welch arrived to inspect the Station and at 8:40am he left with District Officer Cruise, leaving Station Officer Flynn in command of the Station.
Whilst it was closed as an active Fire Station, Pyrmont had housed the Transport Section of the NSW Fire Brigade for a number of years. With work being undertaken to enhance the aging building, prior to the Brigade returning to service there, it was also requested that upgrades be made to better house the Transport workshops. A new roof, new concrete floor and new doors were required to better house the workshop staff and appliances currently being worked upon. The estimated cost of the work was £5,400 (approximately $150,000 today). The work was completed in July 1962 however the initial costing estimate was surpassed with the work totally £6093 (approximately $166,000 today). One of the reasons put forward for this increase was the extensive electrical work that was completed in the garage to enhance the working space of the workshop staff.
Pyrmont Fire Station Renovations (1993-2006)
In 1993 Pyrmont Fire Station was closed and made ready for sale. The Brigade and appliances were re-located to the City of Sydney Headquarters in the interim. Though it was still planned that the Station would be sold and new premises sought for the Brigade on the waterfront, the sale of the building was delayed and for the interim the Brigade moved back into the aging Station on 18 January 1997 to afford the Pyrmont area better fire protection. Prior to the Brigade re-occupying the building it underwent a number of renovations to better serve the purposes of the Brigade.
In the financial year 2002-03 the Department of Commerce provided funding for restoration work for Pyrmont Fire Station, through its State Heritage and Retained Properties Program to coincide with the upcoming Centenary of the Station in 2006. It was at this time that talk of selling the heritage listed Station ceased.
Celebrating A Centenary and Recent Renovations (2007-2016)
On 31 March 2007 celebrations were held at Pyrmont Fire Station to celebrate 100 years since the opening of the Station in December 1906. More than 200 people joined the celebrations which featured a parade of past Firefighters that had been stationed at Pyrmont.
On 25 June 2014 FRNSW issued the tender for the redevelopment of Pyrmont Fire Station. Extensive consultations took place on how best to preserve the heritage listed building whilst still providing a modern environment for those firefighters stationed there. During the construction phase the Pyrmont Brigade and their appliance were re-located to the City of Sydney Fire Station.
Due to its long history Pyrmont Fire Station is listed on the State Heritage Register, therefore immense work was done during the refurbishment and renovation of the Station to preserve the history of the building. Some of the steps taken by FRNSW to achieve this are:
•Any new brickwork was completed to match that of the existing brickwork
•Only areas of damage or missing joins were given attention in regards to the mortar
•All original timber floorboards were kept, with work done to enhance them where necessary or additional boards added above the existing ones where safety was a concern
•Original glass was retained where possible
Prior to the start of renovations archaeological excavations were undertaken and a number of items were recovered through this process and throughout the renovation process. These items are in the care of the Museum of Fire.
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team