Fire Brigade , Bradford on Avon
Tracing the history of the fire brigade in Bradford-on-Avon is a little frustrating and only disjointed bits and pieces have been found. For instance, Kelly's Directory for 1885 recorded the fact that a brigade existed in the town, with twelve men commanded by Superintendent E.J.. Rossiter and equipped with a manual pump which was kept at the Town Hall, whilst in 1889 Superintendent Edmund Long was in command. There is a brief mention of a fire, in August 1891, when the sawmills and india rubber works of Mr. G, Holbrow at Limpley Stoke were involved and some criticism was directed towards the Bath City Fire Brigade for its failure to attend so that the fire fighting was left to the twelve members of the Bradford Fire Brigade who attended with their solitary manual pump. No doubt, as in other towns at the time, .some reliance was placed upon the fact that large industrial concerns often had a private fire brigade and of course, in Bradford there was a works brigade at Kingston Mills - the name, in 1891, was not mentioned but it could have been even then, Spencer Moulton & Co. Actually. The mention then, in 1891, was only to the effect that, on 27th June the works brigade indulged themselves in a day's outing t o Weston-super-Mare, a n outing which resulted in their absence from the works front 0600 hours until 2300 hours, another instance of what would appear nowadays to be an irresponsible action but one which was 'commonplace and obviously accepted as a way of life then.
In 1904 discussions commenced between the Councils of the Urban District; and Rural District about the creation of an agreement between them regarding the management of the fire brigade. These discussions dragged on for years. At one time a form of agreement was actually signed and the Rural Council began paying an agreed sum but this was declared illegal by the District Auditor and consequently the agreement fell through, . It was not until 15th July, 1907 (when Captain Charles Bricker was in charge) that final agreement was reached and the two Councils signed the formal document in which it was recorded',., that the Urban District Council, under the Public Health Act 1875 and. the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, had provided a fire engine, fire escape and other apparatus and also appointed a proper number of firemen and made Rules regulating the pay and control of such firemen...' (This information reveals that the brigade also possessed an escape which would undoubtedly be a hand-drawn, wheeled model common to the times and which may well have been provided by the-Council but equally could have been provided by the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire in a campaign carried out by the Society in the 1870s to provide a good many towns with an escape at no cost to the residents) .Be that as it may, under the agreement now signed by the two Councils, the Rural District were to pay in quarterly instalments, the sum of £7.10s. 0d, (£7.50) per annum until June 1909 and £5 per annum thereafter. This would formalise the use of the Bradford on Avon Fire Brigade in the Rural District area and, in fact, this agreement seems to have remained in force until the 31st May, 1931,

As for the equipment and daily happenings of the brigade, it must be remembered that Bradford was a small town arid consequently its financial ambitions were scaled accordingly. For instance, it is extremely difficult to imagine what sophisticated equipment was involved in the 'purchase in 1913, for the comparatively low cost of £16.18s. 0d. (£16.90) of a 'Water Motor and Gong" - no clue is given as to what it was or how or where it could be used. In 1914 more hose was purchased and it was also decided to provide the firemen with new uniforms at £15 each. When Charles Earle was Chief Officer, in 1915, the Council considered the advantages of purchasing a motor pump as against the use of a motor tractor to tow a pump, but it was considered that the tractor would be impracticable in the locality, Considering the Bradford area and its steep hills, it raises the question as to just what was meant by the term tractor when considering the versatility of that type of power unit.
The death was announced in February 1923 of Chief Officer G.C. Earle and he was succeeded by Captain J. Stafford at which time it is learnt that the fire station was in St. Margaret's Street. In 1935 there is a short report to the effect that Deputy Chief Officer H.E. Long was retiring on grounds of ill-health after serving for 35 years.
It becomes quite clear that the fire brigade in Bradford developed quite slowly compared with many other brigades in the locality. For instance it was in 1923 that a fire siren was provided and sited at the rubber works whilst in the same year, a new hosecart was purchased a hand-drawn affair which is strange when it is considered that at this time new appliances were capable of being either self-propelled or, at the very least towed by a vehicle of sorts. It is true however that the Council did make arrangements for the hiring of a motor lorry to tow the fire engine, although no mention was made as to just what sort of engine was actually available at this time. It might be assumed, however, that it was a motor-powered, trailer pump which would have been quite a different sort of appliance from that being envisaged in the discussions held in 1915 about a new motor pump. By mid 1925 though, serious thought was given to the matter of a motor pump and eventually it seems that the decision was taken to purchase a 40 h. p. 250/300 g.p.m. "Martin" fire engine and in the details of the mutual assistance scheme arranged between a number of towns in the county (see Chippenham for details) it was quite clear that Bradford on Avon did indeed have its own motor-driven pump. Whether coincidental or not is not at all clear but in early 1939, i.e. soon after the coming into force of the Fire Brigades Act 1938, it is reported that Bradford-on-Avon is to have a new 350 g.p.m. motor pump, a 350 g.p.m. trailer pump and a Tender complete with extension ladders as well as new uniforms for the men (presumably the first new issue since that of 1914). This could have been the result of co-operation between the Urban and Rural Councils on the lines of their earlier agreement for joint provision of a fire brigade to cover the whole of the Rural District,
Just prior to the nationalisation of fire services in 1942 long service medals were presented to Chief Officer W. Rossiter (it might be surmised that he was a descendent of Superintendent E.J. Rossiter in command in 1885), Deputy Chief Officer H.W. Brown, Engineer R. Ewence and Firemen J. Drew and H.S. Smith.
As usual there is no available record of happenings during the National Fire Service period until a press report, of 16th August, 1947 regarding a fire at the Granby Hotel, Westwood, went into some detail because of public concern about the incident. It was alleged that a call to the brigade was made from the hotel at 1930 hours but as far as the fire service was concerned the call was not received until 1952 hours. The first attendance was reinforced by appliances from Bristol, Bath, Trowbridge, Melksham and seven other stations but despite all this the fire engulfed the entire three storey building and it was destroyed in three hours. The fire fighting was hampered by a water shortage and sightseers got in the way of appliances setting up a relay from the canal some way .away in Bradford itself. There was 'apparently also a lot of pilfering of guests' property and this happened, it was reported, because the guests had thrown their property out of bedroom windows before leaving themselves and, incidentally, leaving the windows wide open so assisting the fire to spread.