In 19th century Lambton, fire in one form or another was the principal means of heating, cooking, and providing light. But the flames that illuminated also had a dark side. On Saturday night 6th February 1875 in Miss Jackson’s millinery shop in Elder Street, the string that suspended the window lamp snapped, the lamp fell, and the shop contents ignited.
Although the blaze was spotted and extinguished before much damage was done, this near disaster was the catalyst for the formation of the Lambton Fire Brigade. A public meeting was held, a committee formed, subscriptions collected, and a hand pumped fire engine purchased from Sydney for £40. The engine arrived in August 1875 and was housed in a shed paid for and erected by John Stoker at the rear of his hotel on the north east corner of Elder and Grainger streets. After some period of practice, the engine and crew were first put to the test fighting a fire at the Co-operative Colliery in Wallsend in January 1876.
With the addition of more equipment and new engines over the years, the location behind Stoker’s hotel became too small, and after application to Lambton Council for some of their land, a new two storey wooden fire station was constructed in De Vitre Street and officially opened in 1902. In March 1913 a violent wind storm totally destroyed this building, damaging much of the firefighting equipment inside.
In its place a new brick fire station was constructed and opened in 1914, which served the local community for over 100 years until the move to the new fire station site in Young Road in 2016. Today our reliance on fire for the basic necessities of life is diminished, but our reliance on local firefighting services in times of crisis is as great as when the Lambton Fire Brigade began 141 years ago.
The article above was first published in the July 2016 edition of the Lambton Local.
Miss Jackson’s Millinery Shop
The fire on 6th February 1875 that was the catalyst for the formation of the Lambton fire brigade took place in Miss J. Jackson’s millinery shop in Elder St. Below is an advertisement for this establishment in the Miners’ Advocate on 23 Dec 1874, just a few weeks before the fire.
The advertisement above describes Miss Jackson’s shop as being “Next to Stoker’s Hotel”. Since that hotel was on the north east corner of Elder/Grainger streets, then Miss Jackson’s shop was probably where the Lambton Grocers is located.
The first fire station
A Hunter Water Board map from the 1890s shows the location of Lambton’s first fire station in Grainger St, behind John Stoker’s hotel.
The two story wooden fire station
A newspaper article from 1921 on the jubilee of Lambton states that the reason the fire station location was moved from behind Stoker’s hotel was because
Amendments in the Liquor Act prevented the station being on licensed premises, and an application to the council resulted in the dedication of an allotment of land in De Vitre road.
This information is also repeated on page 130 of “The Story of Lambton”, but I have not yet found any contemporary evidence to support this assertion. The only reason I have found so far from the time of the move is from an 1898 council meeting where
Alderman Ward was in favour of transferring a portion of the allotment to the brigade, as he considered it would be then applied to a very good use and for the benefit, of the ratepayers. The land they occupied at present was too small, and not central enough.
The two story wooden fire station constructed in De Vitre St in 1902 can be seen in a couple of photos, for example this photo in the Newcastle Council Hunter Photobank …
… and also in the background of a 1912 Ralph Snowball photo in the Cultural Collections site …
… as well as this March 1912 photo …
But just one year later, disaster struck …
Timeline of events
|Article Date Event Date||Notes|
|27 Jan 1872|
20 Jan 1872
|A near fatal house fire at Griffiths' Flat "has caused a general feeling and desire to organise a fire brigade at Lambton."|
|10 Feb 1875|
6 Feb 1875
|Following a potentially disastrous fire in Miss Jackson's millinery shop, a public meeting has been called to take steps towards the formation of a Fire Brigade in Lambton.|
|17 Feb 1875|
11 Feb 1875
|Public meeting to organise a fire brigade.|
|27 Feb 1875||Meeting of the Fire Brigade committee.|
|12 Jun 1875||Momemtum for the formation of fire brigade at Lambton is waning.|
|17 Jul 1875||Money being collected for a fire engine. Mr Stoker is erecting a shed for it behind his hotel.|
|28 Aug 1875|
25 Aug 1875
|Fire engine purchased for £40 has arrived from Sydney, and the brigade members have had some practise with it.|
|4 Sep 1875|
2 Sep 1875
|Dinner and meeting with the Superintendent of the Newcastle Fire Brigade, discussing the requirements of further acquisitions for the Lambton brigade.|
|2 Oct 1875||Rules of the Newcastle Fire Brigade (with minor amendments) adopted by Lambton brigade.|
|13 Nov 1875||Fire at Mr Cairns' hotel, but the brigade and fire engine do not attend because of a lack of practice and the fire bell has not yet been hung.|
|1 Dec 1875|
27 Nov 1875
|First call-out of the new fire engine, to attend a fire at the Northumberland hotel. The fire had been extinguished by the time the engine arrived.|
|1 Dec 1875|
29 Nov 1875
|Fire bell has finally been hung and is ready for use.|
|8 Jan 1876|
6 Jun 1876
|First use of the Lambton fire brigade engine in a real fire, at the Co-Operative Colliery, Wallsend.|
|22 Jul 1892||"Another fine area of 18 acres, known as Griffiths' Flat, is also admirably situated for recreative purposes; and a movement is at present on foot to have it dedicated as a practice and recreation reserve for the combined volunteer fire brigades of the district."|
|10 Aug 1898||Fire brigade applies to council for a portion of their land in De Vitre St to erect a new fire station. "The land they occupied at present was too small, and not central enough."|
|7 Sep 1898||Land for the new fire station in De Vitre Street has been surveyed.|
|11 Jan 1899|
17 Dec 1898
|Portion No. 854 of the Newcastle Pasturage Reserve, containing 29 perches, and situated in De Vitre-street, Lambton, has been set apart for a fire brigade station.|
|22 Sep 1902|
20 Sep 1902
|Official opening of the new fire station in De Vitre St.|
|15 Mar 1913|
13 Mar 1913
|Lambton fire station destroyed by violent windstorm.|
|19 Aug 1913||Tenders have been called for the erection of a fire station at Lambton, Newcastle.|
|1 Oct 1913||The tender of F. Hickey has been accepted for the building of a new fire station at Lambton.|
|13 Aug 1914|
12 Aug 1914
|Newly constructed brick firestation commences operation.|
|25 Jun 1921||An article on the Jubilee of Lambton Municipality has a good summary of the history of the Lambton fire brigade.|