Select a page...

Timeline: 1248 to 1967

[1200] [1600] [1700] [1800] [1900] 


 1248 A great fire destroys the wooden superstructure of the Norman bridge over the river Tyne.  A large part of Newcastle is burnt out. 

 1639 Fire destroys the Town Clerk's Office in the old Town Chamber and part of the Exchange under the old Town Court in Newcastle. 

 1751 Newcastle Corporation and Trinity House buy two fire engines. 

 1837 A Mr. Mitchell, member of Newcastle City Council, makes an impassioned appeal to the Council to help set up an efficient Fire Brigade in the town. 

1842 Gateshead secures firefighting equipment - a set of turncocks, keys and starters for the water mains with a hose and suction pipe.  Sets are held at each Police Station in the town.

 1846 In Newcastle, another member of the City Council presses the need for a fire brigade. 

1850 Two fire brigade stations are operating in Newcastle, run by the Fire Assurance Companies. 

Great Fire of Newcastle & Gateshead - October 1854
The Great Fire of Newcastle and Gateshead - October 1854

1854 53 people die in the Great Fire of Gateshead, which breaks out in the worsted mills of Messrs, Willson in Hillgate Street. 

Some ten or twelve fire engines now exist in Newcastle.  Some are owned by fire assurance companies, who keep them near the police station at the rear of Holy Jesus Hospital.  The larger business houses also own fire engines. 

A Newcastle City Councillor points out that the population in the town is nearing 100,000, but not one piece of apparatus is available for rescuing people from the upper stories of buildings. 

1857 A Voluntary Fire Service is established in Gateshead. 

1860 Alderman T. Ridley, 'Father' of Newcastle Corporation Fire Brigade, begins his effort to establish a Municipal Fire Brigade. 

1862 Gateshead's Voluntary Brigade, manned by the Police, has 26 men on roll.  An old manual fire engine, axes and eight leather helmets are bought second-hand for £75. 

1866 The population of Gateshead is now 33,500.  The volunteer Fire Brigade gets an engine station and one fire engine for twenty men with 650 feet of leather hose.  The value of this equipment is £150. 

Newcastle City Council buy the fire station owned by the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company, as the site is wanted for improvements .  The insurance Company offers to give the city all of their appliances and equipment and to assist the City if the Corporation wants to set-up its own Municipal Fire Service.  Alderman T. Ridley urges the City Council to accept the offer. 

1867 Newcastle City Council agree to Alderman Ridley's proposal for the formation of a Police Fire Brigade and the acceptance of the gift of appliances and equipment from the Insurance Company. 

1868 Newcastle City Council buys a steam fire engine and two efficient hand engines to get greater water pressure when fighting fires.  The steam fire engine costs £650 and thrusts 500 gallons of water a minute to a height of 180 feet. 

1871 In Gateshead, a wooden fire escape on wheels is purchased to supplement existing equipment.

1879 Newcastle City Fire Brigade consists of 20 men - a Chief Constable in charge of fires, an Engineer responsible for all the apparatus and 18 Constables to act as Firemen.  Every member of the Police Force is instructed in fire fighting and is required to attend fires as necessary. 

In this year the Newcastle Brigade is re-organised.  A permanent section is set-up. 

1885 Larger and more convenient premises are provided for the Newcastle Municipal Fire Service at Westgate Road (these remain the Fire Brigade Headquarters until 1933). 

1886 A proposal is made, and rejected, at a Newcastle City Council meeting to disband the Fire Brigade because of its cost- £1,148 for that year. 

1891 A Fire Station on Arthur's Hill, at the junction of Denholme Road and Westgate Road is opened by the Mayor of Newcastle, Joseph Baxter Ellis. 

1892 A steam-operated, horse-drawn fire engine costing £450 is bought by the Gateshead Brigade.  The new appliance can deliver water at a rate of 350 gallons a minute. 

A large bell is fixed to the tower of the Police Station in Swinburn Place, Gateshead to call constables from their beats when there are fires.  Constables have to dash in from their beats, harness the horses, change into fire-fighting uniform and then go to the fire.

1895 The average number of fires recorded in Newcastle in the past five years is 130.  There are 15 fire alarms with telephones connected directly to the Headquarters in Westgate Road. 

The Newcastle Brigade is now generally accepted as an efficient organisation - other local authorities, businesses, and property owners, seek it's services.

1899 A Salvage Corps is proposed for Newcastle, but is rejected on the grounds that the insurance companies should help to pay for it since they would benefit.  A few weeks later there is a serious fire at the Literary and Philisophical Society building, which results in irreparable damage to some valuable works. 

1902 The existing fire and police station covering the East end of Newcastle is opened.  It has a steam fire engine and a horse-drawn hose tender fitted with a 60ft. sliding carriage escape. 

1903 A 75ft. escape ladder with a dog cart to carry it is bought by the Newcastle Brigade and housed at Westgate Road Station. 

In this year the Gateshead Brigade purchase for £50 a new horse-drawn 50ft. long ladder-escape. 

1907 A new fire station is opened in Swinburne Place, Gateshead.  It is specially built for steam engines, but with stables and harness rooms for the accommodation of horses which, for the first time, are permanently attached to the Brigade.  Hitherto, horses have been provided by local tradesmen, etc. on occasion demands. 

1913 Firemen in Newcastle's Municipal Fire Service are paid 31/- a week, rising after fifteen years to 39/- a week. 

1918 A pay increase for Newcastle firemen now gives them 32/- a week to start, rising to 44/- a week after 12 years service. 

1919 Ten people die in an appalling fire at Cross House, an office block in Newcastle.  Many of those killed lose their lives when jumping from the seventh floor. 

A major step is taken to mechanise the Gateshead Brigade.  The use of horses for drawing fire appliances is discontinued.  Two motor-drawn appliances are purchased.  The new fire station now houses four fire-fighting appliances: - the old manual pump operated by 20 men, the horse-drawn steam engine, a new motor tender and a new motor pump. 

1920 As a result of the loss of life in the Cross House fire, the first turn-table ladder is purchased for the City.  It is an 85ft. ladder in four sections, costing £3,050. 

1921 Agreements are made between Gateshead and Birtley and Hebburn Councils for the services of Gateshead Police Brigade. 

Proposals are made for the erection of a new Fire Brigade Headquarters for Newcastle Municipal Fire Brigade on a site at Marlborough Crescent.  The permanent staff at this station has risen from 5 to 30 men and the population has risen from 158,000 to 282,000.  The proposals are dropped, however, in favour of the provision of the present Police and Fire Brigade Headquarters premises in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle (formally opened in 1933).

1924 Fresh agreements are drawn up between Gateshead and Birtley and Hebburn. 

1938 A new Leyland 50 h.p. pump is purchased by the Gateshead Brigade - the pump delivers 750 gallons of water a minute and remains in service with the present Brigade until 1961. 

1941 As a war emergency measure, fire services throughout the country are nationalised and both Newcastle and Gateshead Brigades come under Government control, with the promise that, after the war, the Brigades will be returned to the local authorities. 

Nationalisation brings with it a great extension of staff and equipment in anticipation of heavy fires caused by air raids.  A large number of temporary fire stations are established throughout both Newcastle and Gateshead. 

One of the most protracted fires in the history of the City is caused when bombs strike the Forth goods yard in an air raid.  Throughout the war, the Fire Service plays a major part in the war effort of both Newcastle and Gateshead. 

1948 The Fire Services are returned to the Newcastle and Gateshead Corporations and the Newcastle and Gateshead Joint Fire Service is born - a project first mooted nearly 80 years before. 

1967 Greater efficiency and greater economy in the transport fleet is achieved when transport goes over to diesel. 

The joint Fire Service was the first fire brigade in the country to produce prototypes of a "mini" fire engine able to reach fires in traffic free pedestrian precincts.  The "minis" could go along pavements and up pedestrian way ramps. 

1967 also saw major improvements in the efficiency of the Joint Brigade since the formation of the Joint Service.  New stations were also built at Shipcote, Gateshead and West Road, Newcastle.  Additionally, a Brigade Stores Department and Workshops, specially designed, are established at the West Road Station.