What the blazes! Send for the fire fighting champs
Proud firemen show off their trophies
“The Voice of the Black Country”
THIS picture from the Bugle collection is redolent of a bygone age, with the shining brass of the fire engine and its two immaculately turned out horses matched by the equally smart firemen.
The photograph dates to around 1900 and it shows Smethwick fire brigade (and their dog) posing with a fine steam-powered fire engine.
If they appear to be in someone’s back garden, that is because that is exactly where they are. The picture was taken in the grounds of the home of the brigade’s captain, Councillor E.J. Forster – and there are a couple of his servants just creeping into the frame on the right hand side.
A volunteer fire brigade was set up in Smethwick in 1878 and they kept their engine at the depot of the local board’s highway department at the rear of the public buildings. The fire station in Rolfe Street was opened in 1910.
Smethwick fire brigade grace our front page too, with a photograph of similar vintage. In the front page picture the men’s uniforms are slightly different – they do not wear the polished brass helmets but have black enamelled ones instead, although they appear to be posing with the same fire engine.
Fire brigades would compete against other brigades in their district and further afield in efficiency exercises, as a way of improving their training and readiness. Judging by the trophies and shields lined up on the table, the Smethwick brigade must have been one of the best.
Can you name any of the firemen or the officials in these two pictures?
Smethwick fire brigade c.1900