*This information is an extract from the colour-book produced by the Museum of Fire's Heritage Team to celebrate the opening of the new Wallsend Fire Station at an event held in 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 Formation of the Wallsend and Plattsburg Fire Brigade
The town of Wallsend developed after the Wallsend Coal Company opened their first mine in the area in 1860. Within the early years of the settlement there are numerous reports of house fires but nothing so serious as to threaten the safety of the entire town. A separate village was also established at the same time named Plattsburg, however it was not as developed as Wallsend and the two remained separate municipalities.
Following the introduction of the Fire Brigades Act to Sydney in 1884, Wallsend and Plattsburg endeavoured to have the act extended to them so they could establish an effective Brigade under the guise of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. A meeting was held in 1886 for this purpose. The following year, in 1887 the two councils agreed to cooperate to form a united Fire Brigade (though the Act would not be extended until 1910).
Whilst the two councils continued to work towards the creation of a Fire Brigade the number of fires experienced by the towns did not lessen. In fact Wallsend experienced one of its most disastrous fires in December 1888 which caused an estimated £4,000 damage (approximately $590,285 today). Around 2am on Sunday 2 December 1888 a fire began in Nelson Street and within only a short time six businesses had been destroyed. A number of locals used the council’s hose to try and contain the blaze but great praise was given to the Lambton Fire Brigade who arrived on the scene and no doubt prevented any potential loss of life by assisting to evacuate residents.
A week after this a meeting was held on Saturday 8 December 1888 at which the Wallsend and Plattsburg Volunteer Fire Brigade was officially formed. Despite it being reported in the newspapers that a Brigade had been formed, just a few weeks later the committee tasked with establishing a Brigade was still discussing the establishment of the ‘proposed’ Brigade. Therefore, it seems that if a Brigade existed at this time it was not active. In June 1889 it was reported that a hose reel had been built for the use of the Brigade but as of yet there was no hose. The site for a Station was also selected in Plattsburgh, on John Street. The next step was to now appoint a Brigade and build a Fire Station!
There was much fanfare on Saturday 10 August 1889 at 3pm when many families went to the newly built Fire Station to see the new hose reel officially inaugurated. The Wallsend Band played and the public were excited to watch the newly formed Brigade’s first drill. A member of the Honeysuckle Fire Brigade (now known as Newcastle) was on hand to instruct the men and a bit of a spectacle was caused as the men struggled with the hose and ended up completely saturated in water from head to toe. Following this embarrassment the Brigade resolved to become completely acquainted with their appliance and a gentlemen from Hamilton, where a Brigade had been established the previous year visited twice a week to instruct the new Brigade.
When the Fire Brigades Act was extended to Wallsend and Plattsburgh in 1910 it was expected that the Brigade would fall into the Newcastle Fire District however this decision was revoked in 1911 with the Wallsend-Plattsburg Fire District being created independently of Newcastle.
The First New Fire Station at Wallsend
In 1918 a new site for a Station was resumed on the corner of Devon and Mary Streets. Two years later however a new Station had yet to be built and with the old Station arguably falling apart the need for the new Station was immense. It wasn’t until March 1921 that the tender of Mitchell Brothers was accepted for £1,339/16 (approximately $103, 251 today). Though the Brigade did not yet have a motor appliance it was expected that they would receive one in the near future and so the local Council encouraged the Board of Fire Commissioners to include this in their plans for the new Station, a subtle hint to the Board that the town was campaigning for a motor appliance. The Board responded by explaining this was already in the works and that it was standard procedure to include this space in a new Station.
In anticipation of the move into the new Station all telephone lines were connected with the new Station on 17 August 1921 and on 31 August 1921 all electrical gear was relocated. Following this the Brigade moved into their new Station almost immediately as the official opening was held the next day on 1 September 1921. The new Station was officially opened amongst the presence of many members of the local Council and the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW. The old Station had been owned by the now defunct Wallsend Fire Brigade Board and so the Council had approached the Brigade to see if they would gift it to the town for the use of the local Ambulance Service. At the same time another party offered a large sum to purchase the old Station and so the Council believed they had lost out. At the opening of the new Station however, as a Surprise for the local Community and the Council the representative of the Board of Fire Commissioners announced that they would gift it to the municipality.
On Saturday 26 September 1925 members of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW personally delivered a new appliance to the Wallsend Brigade. This was the Brigade’s first motor appliance and so there was great excitement with a function held at the Station exclusively for current and ex-Brigade members.
In 1938 Wallsend was added to the Newcastle Fire District. To bring it into line with the other Stations in the district it was assigned the number 12. This would remain the Station number until the mid-1970s when a state-wide numbering system was introduced.
What's in a name?
As the Brigade was formed by both the Wallsend and Plattsburg Municipalities the Brigade was named as such. Almost immediately the Brigade’s name was shortened to simply Wallsend, however the longer name remained in use for official occasions. In 1915 the two municipalities were amalgamated and became known as simply Wallsend. The Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW adopted this new convention when referring to the Brigade, however the Brigade’s original name was still used on occasions until the 1930s.
The Second New Fire Station for Wallsend (2018)
In 1935 quarters for a married man were erected at the Station to allow someone to always be at the Station.
In 2002 it was reported that Wallsend Fire Brigade was on the list to receive a new Fire Station as part of the strategic plan for the Hunter Region. Over the following years this saw Wallsend Fire Station receive major renovations in 2005-06.
In July 2015 the first soil was sod on ground for a new Fire Station in Maryland. On 24 January 2018 the Brigade moved into their new Station.
-Museum of Fire Heritage Team