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Station Focus - No. 444 Singleton Fire Station 1886-2015

*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the history of Singleton Fire Station. 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 Singleton Volunteer Fire Brigade

On Friday 16 April 1886, a public meeting was held at the Singleton Municipal Council Chambers to discuss taking steps towards forming a Volunteer Fire Brigade. Alderman Wright made the first resolution, saying that it was desirable to establish a Volunteer Fire Brigade in Singleton and that the Council should assist in the movement as it was in their interest to “Prevent the destruction of rateable property, besides the far greater responsibility of saving life.” During the meeting, it was also discussed that the various insurance companies, about 18 with agencies in Singleton, should be interested in contributing to the purchase of an engine, in addition to the support of the Council to provide water tanks and an engine shed. All these motions were passed unanimously, and that evening a committee was formed and tasked with forming the Brigade.


In July 1886 at a follow-up meeting of the committee, they had agreed to form a Brigade of 20 members under volunteer terms. They were approached by Captain Booker, an agent for fire engines, who came to promote a “fire manual engine and lifesaving apparatus for about £370 (approximately $38,000 today). All the terms were agreed and on Friday 24 September 1886 the new 7-inch manual fire engine, made by Rumsey and Co, NY, USA had arrived in town, the first of its kind in Australia. The brigade members immediately saw to testing its powers, with two columns of water being projected to height of 100 feet (30 metres) into the air.

Promotional poster for Rumsey and Co, Seneca Falls NY (USA), circa 1880 showing their range of firefighting appliances [Museum of Fire Collection]
Promotional poster for Rumsey and Co, Seneca Falls NY (USA), circa 1880 showing their range of firefighting appliances [Museum of Fire Collection]

The Singleton Fire Brigade operated under a purely voluntary basis for several years with no pay being received for attending fires, and the costs to operate the Brigade were financed by the subscription of several private citizens. As the town grew however, so too did its needs, and in the 1890’s the community called out to the Government for assistance in providing additional funding for the Brigade. By this time the Singleton Volunteer Fire Brigade numbered over 50 men. The engine was being stored in a council-owned galvanised iron shed on John Street, opposite the intersection of Macquarie Street, on the banks of the Hunter River. This shed was to be ‘home’ to the Singleton Fire Brigade for the next 28 years.


In 1910, the Municipality of Singleton came under the control of the Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales through its inclusion in the Fire Brigades Act 1909. With the support of the NSW Government behind them, the Singleton Brigade sought to put themselves on the same footing as the other Brigades around NSW, this included asking for new equipment, payment on attending fire calls, better training and organisational structures, and perhaps a new Fire Station.


The First Station

Land for a new Station was purchased by the Board of Fire Commissioners on 14 March 1913, for the purposes of constructing a new Fire Station. The property, located on Pitt Street, was in a central position in Town and was found to be ideal for a fire station site. In April 1915, the Board of Fire Commissioners accepted a tender from E.L. Thorne of Randwick to build the new Singleton Fire Station on that site, for the sum of £714 (approximately $69,000 today). The building was to be built to the specific requirements and specifications set out by the Board of Fire Commissioners. The building was completed on 9 September 1915 and was occupied by the Singleton Fire Brigade from 29 October 1915; however, the official opening of the Singleton Fire Station was not held until the 30 March 1916. The opening of the new Fire Station was undertaken with all the trimmings of a public gala event. Bunting was set up in the engine room where a supper was prepared “bearing an abundance of good cheer.”

Singleton Fire Station [Museum of Fire Collection]
Singleton Fire Station [Museum of Fire Collection]

The building is a single-storey brick building with arched polychrome brickwork around the front window and engine room door. The original building has a single-bay engine room, however there is a secondary engine room at the back of the station property. The architectural style of the building takes on influences of Federation Period architecture, with the triangular gable in the parapet above the engine room doorway and profiled cornices running along the length of the front facade. However, it is very clear that with the harsh reality of World War One, the extravagances of architecture were pulled back, the slightly decorated façade masking a simpler, small flat-roof construction behind with only the minimum of amenities.

Large fire at Singleton Secondary School, February 1974 [Museum of Fire Collection]
Large fire at Singleton Secondary School, February 1974 [Museum of Fire Collection]

Singleton Fire Brigade over the Generation

The Singleton Brigade has proven its strength of spirit through the number of members that have been in the Brigade for years of continuous service. In 1934, two of its members, Walter Lloyd and Charles Howard were the first volunteer firefighter in NSW to receive the newly inaugurated Brigades Bar to their Long Service Medals for their 30 years of continuous service. Lloyd, on his retirement in 1935, had served the community for 48 years, and Howard for 46 in 1939.53


This tradition of long service continues to this day. Over the years numerous members of Singleton Fire Brigade have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, most recently this tradition of long service was again recognised when Captain Bruce Ambrose was awarded with a 15-year National Long Service Medal and Deputy Captain Joe Adamthwaite received a 10-year Good Conduct Medal.


Singleton Today – The Town and its Brigade.

The township of Singleton is nestled in the heart of the Hunter Valley, surrounded by a number of small villages include Broke, Milbrodale, Bulga and Putty. The town sits at the junction of the New England and Golden Highways and is surrounded by World Heritage National Parks – Wollemi and Yengo - as well as Mt Royal National Park.


Singleton retains some of its earliest primary industries as a major centre for cattle, dairy and vineyards. Singleton’s economy is primarily driven by coalmining, with 20 coal mines in operation, employing approximately 31% of the town’s resident labour force. Currently, coal mines are operated by Rio Tinto and Xstrata.


Tourism also plays an important role in the community, with the Hunter Valley Vineyards providing picturesque excursions for millions of international and domestic visitors every year. Statistics from March 2015 show that the region received 3 million overnight visitors during the past year, with 44% of those visiting from the Sydney metropolitan area.


Singleton Fleet List

Year

Vehicle Type

Model, Make

Number

1886

7” Manual

Rumsey USA

 

1915

6” Manual

Shand Mason

6

1929

Pumper

Dennis 250

185

1937

Pumper

Dennis 250

81

1945

Pumper

Dennis Ace

260

1947

Pumper

Dennis Ace

236

157

Pumper

Dennis F1

31

1965

Pumper

Bedford J1

168

1970

Pumper

Ford D400

337

1975

Pumper

International 1610A

498

1989

Tanker

Isuzu FRS 4x4

768

2000

Pumper

International 1810C

136

2003

Pumper

Isuzu FTR 800

523

-Story by the Museum of Fire Heritage Team

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