Ref NoDD1792
Acc No1792
TitleGrampian Fire Brigade and predecessors
Description1. Management records
1.1. Minutes
1.2 Annual Reports
2. Finance
2.1 Record of Accounts
3. Operations
3.1 Registers of Fires and Other Occurrences
3.2 Log Books
3.3 Fire Incident Reports and Photographs
3.4 Appliances
3.5 Other Registers
3.6 Miscellaneous
4. Property
5. Staff Records
6. Grampian Fire Heritage Trust
7. Promotional and Events
7.1 Magazine "Northern Light"
7.2 Outreach
Date1896 - 2006
Related MaterialAcc. Chamberlain Misc/2:
Aberdeen Fire Brigade Pension Fund Ledger. 1926 – 1941. (1 volume)
Aberdeen Fire Brigade Pension Fund Cash Book. 1936 – 1941. (1 volume)
CreatorAberdeen Fire Brigade
North-Eastern Fire Brigade
Grampian Fire Brigade
Extentc. 8 linear metres
​Open or Restricted AccessOpen
Access ConditionsOpen for consultation at Old Aberdeen House, open Mon-Wed 9:30-12:30 and 13:30-16:30. It is advisable to make an appointment.Staff Registers will be covered by data protection legislation and some photographs are restricted from view owing to their sensitive nature. These are marked as restricted on the catalogue with detail as to why in the description.
Administrative HistoryLittle is known of the history of the Fire Brigade in Aberdeen before 1721, when the records of that time show that the City Fathers decided to appoint a watchman who would patrol the town at night and raise the alarm if a fire was discovered. There is also evidence that a "fire engine" was procured about this time and although nothing exists in the records to indicate where it was kept or of its type of construction, it is known that it was a Newsham engine and was purchased in 1762 from London and the cost was paid by Sun Fire Insurance Co. A shed was provided in Lodge Walk by Mason's. Financial assistance towards the upkeep of the Fire Brigade seems to have been provided, in part at least , by the Insurance Companies and would appear to have been in keeping with the general practice of Insurance Companies providing support to Fire Brigades in other parts of the country at that time. By 1776, a building called the "Water House" which was the water reservoir for all the street wells , had been provided in Broad Street and was the first recorded Fire Station in Aberdeen. Between 1826 - 1834, the Fire Engine establishment was at the corner of Back Wynd/Union Street and shore porters were used as firemen.

From about 1770s to the early 1830s a number of serious fires occurred, which alarmed the towns people and eventually in 1835 the council decided to take action, with the result that a permanent Fire Brigade was established. A Firemaster and a number of assistants were appointed; a new fire pump purchased and an annual sum of £100 set aside to cover running costs of the new Brigade.

The fire pump was one of the manually-operated type, in common use at that time and required 24 men, positioned 12 on each side, to operate the rocking arms and provide the motive power to pump the water to the fire. This was an exhausting job and frequently bystanders were recruited for this task receiving, for their labour, ample supplies of ale and other refreshments.

The Firemaster at that time , in addition to his Fire Brigade duties, undertook the duties of Lighting Inspector. His assistants were all employed as slaters and were, consequently, often at work in different parts of the town, with the result that it was necessary. when a fire call was received, for a messenger to be despatched to locate the Firemaster who in turn had to contact his assistants before proceeding to the Fire Station. The Fire Station was in Frederick Street and a horse was provided and also used by the Surveyors Department.

This unsatisfactory call-out procedure inevitably led to delays in attending fires and eventually a serious fire did occur in Marischal Street, where the Fire Brigade arrived approximately one hour after the alarm was raised. Unfortunately, by this time a number of the occupants had perished and the building destroyed. The repercussions and consequences of this fire caused the Town Council to introduce sweeping changes to the structure and running of the Fire Brigade. The resultant changes formed the basic structure of Fire Brigades, recognisable to the present day, whereby arrangements were made for fire calls to be received in the Fire Stations. The personnel were employed permanently as firemen, enabling them to respond immediately from the Fire Station to any emergency call.

In 1885, the first mechanical fire appliance was purchased. This was a horse-drawn, steam operated machine which continued in use until 1893 when it was replaced by a steam-operated appliance of much improved design (Princess Mary).

Plans were drawn up in 1897 for a new "Central Fire Station" to be built in King Street and after completion of the building work, the new Fire Station was officially opened in 1899 by Rotarian, who later became Sir Alexander Lyon, Convenor of the Lighting, Watching and Fires Committee. The new station had a complement of a Firemaster, Deputy Firemaster, eleven permanent and ten auxiliary firemen and was equipped with two horse-drawn, steam-operated pumps, one horse-drawn escape ladder, six horses and three manual engines. The King Street Fire Station closed in 1997, replaced with a new station at Mounthooly, and was converted into student accommodation.

About the same time as the King Street Fire Station was commissioned sub-fire stations were opened, in Torry, Woodside and Mile-End, each sub-station having a hose cart and ladders and one fireman in constant attendance, enabling the time taken for an experienced fireman with some fire fighting equipment to be in attendance, enabling the time taken for an experience fireman with some fire fighting equipment to be drastically reduced from that taken by the fire appliances from the Central Fire Station in King Street. Eventually, with the advent of motorised fire appliances, these sub-stations were closed down when the time advantage in attending fires in the fringe areas no longer existed.

In 1905 the Aberdeen Fire Brigade, as it was now known, purchased what was reputed to be the first motor fire engine in Scotland from Merryweather Fire Engineers, Greenwich and in 1912 another motor appliance was added to the Brigade. this appliance was a 75 H.P. "Halley" which carried a 500 G.P.M. capacity turbine pump. The purchase of this second motor fire engine marked the beginning of the end for the horses in the Brigade; four were dispensed with leaving only two to pull the horse-drawn escape ladder or the steamer fire pump.

Progress continued to be made between 1921 to 1937. During this period when Firemaster F. G. Bell was in charge, the following applicances and equipment were added:- 1 Morris Commercial Utility Tender; 1 30 H.P. Leyland Cub Self-propelled Pump with Hose reel and 30 foot extension ladder; 1 65 H.P. Dennis Pump Escape; 1 65 H.P. Halley Self-propelled Pump with Hose reel and 30 foot extension ladder; 1 65 H.P.Leyland Metz Turntable Ladder; 1 Inspection Car; 1 Trailer Pump.

The personnel strength was also increased during this time to:- 1 Firemaster; 1 Deputy Firemaster; 1 Station Officer; 18 Firemen; 4 Auxilliary firemen; 1 Motor Mechanic; 1 Station Attendant/Clerk. The Duty system in operation at this time allowed each man one period off duty in every four days, of 17 and 24 hours respectively. The working day on the Station was from 7 am to 4 pm. after this time duty personnel remained on call from their homes nearby and in the event of a fire, the duty man at the Fire Station after receiving a call, would ring the general alarm bell in the Station, which also operated the alarm bells in the Firemen's houses. Personnel off duty could be called in to assist in the event of a serious fire.

In 1938, prior to the outbreak of War, the Aberdeen Fire Brigade became part of the Auxiliary Fire Service. Nationalisation followed in 1941 when the National Fire Service was formed and continued throughout the remainder of the 1939/45 war, until in 1948 the National Fire Service was disbanded and fire Brigades were returned to the Local Authorities.

In Scotland, eleven Fire Areas were established to replace the National Fire Brigade, by grouping together Cities, Burghs and Counties within geographical areas to form Joint Fire Boards. The North-Eastern Fire Board, established in 1948, covered Aberdeen City and the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Kincardine, Moray and Nairn. The North-Eastern Fire Brigade covered 3,500 square miles and had thirty-eight strategically-placed fire stations. A new headquarters was constructed at 19 Anderson Drive in 1968.

In 1975 further changes to local government in Scotland led to the formation of the Grampian Fire Brigade, with a geographical area mirroring the new Grampian Regional Council (the Nairn area which had been part of the North-Eastern Fire Brigade became part of the Northern Fire Brigade). The Brigade operated a Headquarters, 3 full time stations in Aberdeen, 1 in Peterhead and 1 in Elgin and 33 other stations in villages and towns across the region. The Brigade used unusual white painted engines. It was amalgamated into the national Scottish Fire & Rescue Service in 2013.
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