Category Archives: Fire Service

1970 Families flee gas plant blasts

From the Daily Express, 24th September, 1970

EXPLOSIONS roared through a gas bottling plant last night – and the bangs could be heard over half of London.

From Middlesex to Farnborough, Kent, people were roused by the blasts. The glow from the flames could be seen in Putney.

THE BLASTS at the plant in Church Road, Mitcham, hurled pieces of molten cylinders high in the air.

No one was injured but 100 firemen who raced to the scene from all over South London faced the hazard of a broken gas supply main.


They quickly brought a fierce fire in the two-storey factory itself under control, however. Fifty families were evacuated from houses most closely affected. A police spokesman said more might have to be moved from a nearby council estate.

THE SOUND of the explosions were heard as far away as Epsom, Wandsworth, and Bromley.

Streets around the area were littered with chunks of gas canisters, several of which were hurled over 300 yds, and lay hissing in the streets while firemen doused them with foam.

Mr Brian Courtney, an ambulanceman in Caterham 10 miles away, said : “The sky was bright red lighting up everything for miles.”

AT 1 A.M. gas cylinders were still exploding. An adjoining factory was badly damaged and neighbouring shopfronts were blown in.

1947 Rubber Dump Fire


200 Firemen Fight Worst Blaze Since Blitzes

INTENSE heat in London — the temperature in the afternoon rising to 90 degrees — was thought responsible for the outbreak of one of the worst fires for many months. The great fire broke out in a Government rubber dump near Mitcham Common. Thousands of tons of rubber blazed and 200 firemen were faced with an all-night task. The scene was reminiscent of blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F. in the war.

More than 30 fire engines were rushed from all parts of South London to cope with the blaze, the fire assuming alarming proportions.

The fire spread rapidly and quickly reached a factory. Heavy smoke clouds drifted across Mitcham Common toward Streatham, and surrounding property was threatened by the blaze.

Thousands tons of scrap rubber blazed while firemen were trying to get a hose working. They were handicapped by the distance the nearest available water supply — the River Wandle — and were trying to prevent the fire from reaching two builders’ yards. The dump is controlled the Board Trade.


Gangs of men worked to clear fire ” break” between the dump and surrounding houses. The N.F.S. later said the fire was the biggest this year and for quite some time previously.” One eyewitness said: “It is an amazing sight—like the pictures blazing Nazi oil dumps bombed by the R.A.F.”

There was a “general call out” to fire brigades. Over 200 firemen using “walkie-talkie” apparatus fought the fire and four hoselaying lorries ran hoses from the Wandle.

At the dump were 10,000 tons rubber, including 3,000 tons of tyres worth about £40,000 to £50,000.


About 120 employees of the adjoining factory of Bryans Aeroquipment, Ltd., formed a bucket chain, and the factory girls provided water, lemonade, and biscuits to firemen exhausted by the heat. One of the firemen, overcome by the heat and fumes, was removed to hospital.

Firemen were at work all night. Some of them said they expected the dump to smoulder for a week.

Smoke from the fire blacked out the sun in Central London, ten miles away. Some onlookers likened a mushroom-like column of smoke stretching from the heart of the fire to pictures of the atom bomb explosions.

Source: Western Morning News – Tuesday 03 June 1947 from the British Newspaper Archive (subscription required)

There are 9 photos on Merton Memories.

1920 Fire Alarm System suggested by Chief Fire Officer

From the minutes of the
Fire Brigade, Lighting, Allotments and Recreation Committee
Tuesday, June 11th, 1920
pages 86 to 89

4. Chief Officer’s Report – The following report was submitted:-

                Central Fire Station
                     London Road
                     June 11th, 1920

Gentlemen –

I beg to present the following report for your consideration :-

FIRE ALARMS. – I would respectfully suggest that, before proceeding any further in the installation of additional fire alarms, the Chairman and several Members of the Committee avail themselves of the opportunity to inspect the system in operation in several adjoining districts, viz., Wimbledon, Merton, Epsom, Croydon, or Bromley. This system is the “Gamewell” system closed circuit.

All these districts give favourable reports of the efficiency of the systemn, and I have also had experience of the same installation at Bromley.

I have carefully studied the district as regards fire risks, and the most advantageous positions for fire alarms, and recommend that fire alarm boxes be placed at the following positions:-

To Ring into No. 1 Station

Church Road ………… At Lewis Road
Church Road ………… At Benedict Road*
Morden Road ………… At Hancock & Corfields*
London Road ………… At Streatham Road*
London Road ………… At St. Mark’s Road
London Road ………… At Tooting Junction
Streatham Road ……… Outside Pascall’s Factory*
Park Avenue
Western Road ………… Opposite Holborn Union
Links Road …………… At Corner of Frinton Road
Ashbourne Road …… At Corner of Heaton Road
Commonside East …… At Manor Road*
Lonesome ……………… At Greyhound Lane*

To Ring into No. 2 Station

High Street …………….. At Robinson Road
Devonshire Road ……… At junction of Robinson Road
Cavendish Road ………. At junction of Norfolk Road
Denison Road …………. Opposite Miller Road
Church Road ………….. At junction of Western Road

The advantages of this system are numerous. The cost is spread over a period of ten years, when the whole plant becomes the property of the Council.

The points marked with an asterisk are in the vicinity of factories, and auxiliary lines direct to the point from these factories could be suggested, the factories paying an annual rental, which would greatky reduce the cost of that particular point.

Accumulators for the lighting of motor tender and pump could be recharged by our own generator.

Electrical false alarms are impossible.

The whole system being in series, greatly reduces the mileage of external wiring,I have obtained an estimate for the installation of station plants and boxes for eighteen points, also for twelve points, which I attach for your consideration.

Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Urban District Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

1933 Fire alarm test during Fire Brigade Dinner

From the Mitcham News & Mercury, 28th April, 1933 page 1

A TEST was tried at the tenth annual dinner of the Mitcham Urban District Council Fire Brigade last Friday night. While the guests and firemen were seated arround the festive board in the Vestry Hall, a fire alarm suddenly and unexpectedly sounded. Consternation was written on the faces of everybody when the firemen jumped to attention and rushed out of the room. Within 70 seconds the fire engine was in the street, fully manned and ready for action. Then it was announced that the alarm was only a test. It sufficed to prove the efficiency of the Brigade even on such an auspicious occasion as their annual dinner, and it also assured the guests, and through them the public, that no chance is taken when the firemen are enjoying themselves, in safeguarding life and property. It was a very effective move.

Fire Alarm Posts

For around 30 years it was possible for the public to call the fire brigade without using a telephone. Fire alarms were made available across the town, mounted on posts, typically near factories.

Each alarm, when pulled, would send its number to the fire station, using a direct line. The fire brigade would know where to send the crew, who would be able to work out for themselves where the fire was when they got there.

The alarms were withdrawn from service in 1953.

In 1937 the chief fire officer’s report gave a list of the locations of the 36 fire alarm posts. OS maps show the position of an alarm as ‘F A P’, or ‘Fire Alarm Post’.

From the minutes of the
Fire Brigade, Baths and Library Committee
Tuesday, 14th April, 1937
page 541

Gamewell Closed Circuit Fire Alarm System, in three circuits, with 36 succession type boxes, four circuit switchboard, automatic repeater, and visual indicator.
Circuit 1

Station fire alarm 55
Church Road corner of Batsworth Road 15
Western Road junction of Church Road 18
High Street Colliers Wood outside tube station 23
Denison Road opposite Miller Road 25
High Street Colliers Wood corner Robinson Road 27
Norfolk Road opposite Harewood Road 31
Hawks Road junction of Turner Avenue 35
Fleming Mead junction of Alexandra Road 36
Tooting Junction near Grenfell Road 42
Links Road corner of Hailsham Road 44
Seely Road opposite Cromer Road 46
Woodlands corner of Cavendish Road 51
Upper Green corner of Upper Green West 53
Lavender Avenue corner of Steers Mead 54
Haslemere Road junction of Church Road 61-16

Circuit 2

Streatham Road junction of London Road 113
Streatham Road opposite Pascalls 115
Streatham Road corner of Park Avenue 117
Greyhound Terrace corner of Marian Road 121
Grove Road between Woodstock and Warminster Way 123
Carshalton Road near Mitcham Junction 152
London Road opposite Morden Road 164
Edgehill Road opposite Beecholme Avenue 231
Caesars Walk opposite Walsingham Road 243
Bramcote Avenue opposite Mitcham Park 131-10

Circuit 3

Stanford Road junction of Windermere Road 125
Northborough Road opposite Beckway Road 128
Manor Road near Robinhood Close 133
Castleton Road junction of Commonside East 134
Commonside East corner of Tamworth Park 141
Sherwood Park Road opposite Lexden Road 143
Rowan Road corner of Stanford Way 212
Beech Grove junction of Dahlia Gardens 213
Galpins Road corner or Manton Way 215
Longthornton Road junction of Rowan Road 223-10

This list was part of a report by the Chief Officer, Albert G. Wells, M.I.Fire. E.

Maps of Locations

Fire Alarm Posts are identified by the letters F A P on the map.







Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Borough Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

Fire Hydrants

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 11 April 1913 to March 1914
Report of the No. 1 Fire Brigade Committee
24th June, 1913

Page 37

The Superintendent’s Reports were read:

June 11th … Hydrant Inspection … 7s. 0d.

Page 38

The Superintendent submitted the following statement as to the result of testing of the pressure and flow at various hydrants.

TEST OF WATER MAINS ON June 16th, 1913

Position of Hydrant Static pressure in lbs. per. sq. inch. Quantity in gals. per minute
Woodite Towers 48 90
Tamworth Park 50 180
Fair Green 60 240
Graham Road (Figgs Marsh end) 60 330
Pascalls 64 360
Park Avenue 20 150
Vestry Hall 28 460
Hancock and Corfields 32 105
Canons Gates 60 80
Tramway Path 58 55
Frinton Road Links Estate 32 315
Tooting Bridge 30 300
Bonds Road
Western Road 34 240
Western Road Schools 34 340
The above tests were taken between 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock in the evening.

             Yours obediently,
                   A. L. JENNER, Superintendent.

Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Parish Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.

Firemen’s Call Bells

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 12
April 1914 to March 1915
Fire Call Bells
1st December, 1914

Page 121

An agreement from the General Post Office was submitted for removal of Circuit Wire from Cavendish Road to 29, Courtney Road, and it was proposed by Mr. Bland, seconded by Mr. Blaker, and resolved –
That the Chairman be authorised to sign same on behalf of the council.

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 11 April 1913 to March 1914
Report of the No. 1 Fire Brigade Committee
24th February, 1914

Page 177

Driver Stevens having removed from The Parade, London Road, to Edmund Road, the call bell recently fixed by the General Post Office has been rendered useless, and the Committee therefore directed the Clerk to ascertain the cost of removal to the new address. The Clerk reported that a wire was already connected in Edmund Road, and that a bell could be attached to this at a small cost and that the General Post Office were willing to remove the existing bell at The Parade to the house occupied by Fireman Jordan at the Blue Houses for an additional rental of £1 5s. The Committee are of opinion that as the Council are already under an agreement for five years for the bell at The Parade it would be advisable to accept this proposal and recommends

That the Council cancel the existing agreement with the General Post Office and enter into a new agreement upon the terms quoted, and that the Chairman be authorised to execute the same.

From the minutes of the Mitcham Parish Council
Volume 11 April 1913 to March 1914
Report of the No. 1 Fire Brigade Committee
3rd February, 1914

Page 164

A letter has been received from Mr Brooks, one of the fireman, giving notice of his removal from 75, High Street, to No. 4, West Gardens.

The committee recommends

That an order be given to the General Post Office for the removal of the call bell to the new address.

Minutes of meetings held by the Mitcham Parish Council are available on request from the Merton Heritage and Local Studies Centre at Morden Library.