The history of this band of gallant men is sketchy, but worthy of note as they are to our village what the Life boatmen are to seafarers around this island.

In the January 1902 edition of "Fire and Water" (a national publication) appears a notice that Mr.W.J.Owen has been chosen Captain of the Farnborough (Kent) Fire Brigade. We know that at that time Mr Owen was a "cycle maker" on the High Street. In the December 1907 issue it was reported that Farnborough Brigade, along with Chislehurst and Lamorbey , were elected to the South-Eastern District of the Kent Fire Brigade Union, thus joining 66 other Brigades. The chairman Captain Levy said they would soon be able to add Bromley Brigade. The S.E. District was well appointed with the Marquis of Camden as President and several other notable gentlemen as Vice-presidents, and there was a balance in the funds of £40.
The Journal dated March 1908 states : Farnborough (Kent) Fire Brigade Annual Supper held at the end of January was a record gathering for the village, nearly eighty firemen and guests attending. Mr. M.E.O. James, a member of the Parish Council presided, and paid tribute to the energetic work of Captain Ferris, who since he took over the control of the Brigade has greatly increased its efficiency.       

At this stage we are unable to say exactly where the Farnborough Brigade were housed, but we do know it was manned by volunteers and was under the jurisdiction of the Parish Council.  On June 30th 1908 the New Fire Station was formally opened and the Brigade, under Captain Ferris, marched to the old station, removed their appliances amid cheers, and proceeded to the newly-erected engine house. This was situated to the left of the double fronted house [once the New Bakery] on the left of the Scout Hut. Captain Ferris thanked the Parish Council for their kindness in providing a more commodious station at the ceremony, which was followed by a smoking concert in the evening.

On the 4th January the following year a fire started in the library of Pickhurst Mead, Hayes, due to an explosion of gas.  The report in the journal reads: Mr. Huntley Walker, the well known racing motorist, sustained a loss of approximately £30,000.  The main building was saved by the exertions of the Bromley, Farnborough and Beckenham Brigades.  Bromley received the call at 5.21 am. but when they arrived they found the roof of the garage had fallen in and several rooms of the north wing were alight. The report continues: It is a curious coincidence that the same wing of the building was destroyed three years ago, the fire breaking out at the same hour of the morning, and being due to a gas explosion.  The earlier fire was made memorable by the refusal of the Beckenham Fire Brigade to attend, on the grounds that the mansion was outside their district.  The occurrence, it may be recollected, was known as “the red-tape fire”.

Farnborough Brigade were increasing in stature in the district but there was disquiet in the ranks, as “Fire and Water”  reported in the October publication:

Farnborough Fire Brigade Resignation

"Following upon the decision of Captain Ferris to resign the office owing to the dispute with the Parish Council as to payment for services rendered in connection with the lighting and the care of the fire station lamp, the whole of the members of the Brigade tendered their resignation in support of their Captain.  At a special parish meeting called to consider the matter on August 27th a resolution was proposed requesting the Parish Council reinstate the Brigade.  An amendment, however, expressing the confidence of the parishioners in the Council was adopted by 63 votes to 15. The thanks of the meeting were accorded to the members of the Brigade for their past services. 

A new Brigade is now working under Mr. Owen"

1st Farnborough Scouts to the Rescue

By the end of 1911 the Parish Council issued new rules for the Farnborough Fire Brigade which made it quite clear what the lads could not do and must do.  Whether it was these new rules or a change in attitude  we are not sure but it was reported in October 1912 that: Farnborough (Kent) Fire Brigade, having lost five of its active members by resignation, or removal from the district, the assistance of seven members of the local troop of Boy Scouts has been accepted, and they will in future turn out with the Brigade. Just a year after they were formed 

Alan Robinson

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