A brief history of the Fire Service in Holmes Chapel. The logical place to begin this narrative is the Great Fire of Holmes Chapel which occurred on the morning of Tuesday, July 10th 1753. The fire, originating in a button maker’s shop,was sudden and severe, made all the worse because the majority of villagers had travelled to a meeting in Northwich, leaving very few left to fight the fire.
The first Fire Brigades were being formed around this time, but sadly not yet in Holmes Chapel. Nearby Congleton acquired its first appliance in 1765.The earliest fire-fighting arrangements were run by voluntary organisations, parishes or insurance companies.
The first mentions of a fire brigade in Holmes Chapel date from 1884 when the new Parish Magazine was published, but it had clearly been in existence prior to then. There are records relating to the Fire Brigade Accounts over several years in the 1890s. The costs of running the service were largely borne by the more affluent residents of the village through voluntary contributions, although charges were made on those residents who could afford to pay. The firemen were paid for their services and the annual running costs were around £60 a year in the 1890s. Fire emergencies were called by ringing the church bells.
There was much concern about water supplies in the village around this time. The pump was reported to need 40 buckets of water a minute to feed it and adequate supplies were often not available. Consideration was given to various options but it seems nothing came of these deliberations and it was not until piped water arrived in the village around 1910 that reliable supplies could be accessed, although this was still limited until supplies were improved in the mid-1930s.
The Fire Brigades Act of 1938 created Fire Services to be managed by Local Authorities, resulting in the Holmes Chapel volunteers being told their services were no longer required! WWII saw these arrangements suspended and replaced by a National Fire Service. New legislation in 1947 saw a consolidation of fire services into brigades covering geographical areas. Further legislation in 1974 and then in 1997 finally led to the creation of the current Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Holmes Chapel’s original horse drawn fire pump was believed to have been kept in a shed behind the Bulls Head pub at a cost of £2.50 a year, with the horse stabled where Sutton Oaks is now. Later, the pump was moved to Mr. Uriah Plant’s premises on Middlewich Road due to the poor condition of the Bulls Head shed. The pump was subsequently housed at Jubilee Garage on London Road. Following the acquisition of its first motorised fire tender in the 1930s, the Fire Station was based in premises at Sandiford Cottage (see photo). When the then Cheshire County Fire Service decided to build a modern Fire Station on that site, the Fire Appliance was temporarily moved to the Wallpaper Factory on Macclesfield Road – a convenient location as many of the retained fire fighters worked there!
The new Fire Station was opened in 1963 and has recently been upgraded. It now houses a Dennis Sabre appliance along with a Range Rover fast response vehicle – useful for the frequent accidents on the M6 motorway, which has long been the greatest demand on the local crew. Holmes Chapel is still operated by a team of 15 retained Fire Fighters who must live close by to provide the quick response necessary for callouts.
The Fire Service is always keen to hear from prospective volunteers who meet the required criteria.
Holmes Chapel U3A Local History Group