Great Fire of London
Until the mid-16th Century, having a building burn down was a calamity for which there was no compensation. Victims then had to rely on charity to feed and house themselves. From that time, several insurance schemes were initiated to provide compensation but these were not very successful. The Great Fire of London in September 1666 destroyed 13,000 houses and many public buildings, including nearly 80 churches. This changed the minds of many people and the insurance schemes became more popular.
One of the first was set up in 1667 by Dr Nicholas Barbon, who opened an office for this purpose. In 1681, he created a company with several others called “The Fire Office”. Buildings could be insured at a rate of six pence in the pound for brick-built houses and twelve pence for timber. The risk covered was expressed as "Burnt down, Demolished or otherwise damnified by reason of fire”. Since there were previously no organised fire fighters, the Fire Office soon formed its own unit. Not only did this encourage new customers but it also reduced the amount of compensation the company paid out. Other insurance companies soon followed with their own units.
In 1668, an Act was which required municipal authorities to provide buckets, ladders, pickaxes and other equipment necessary for the extinguishing of fires. This Act was confined to London and it made no provision for the training of men to use this equipment, nor indeed did it make the local authority responsible for the quenching of fires. Most of the company firemen were recruited from the Thames watermen and, in consideration of their value in combating fires, all watermen who enlisted with a fire brigade were specifically exempted by Act of Parliament from being impressed into the navy by the press gangs who roamed the riverside. Eventually, the companies cooperated by merging their firefighting units and this was the basis of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade established by Act of Parliament in 1865.
Most streets and houses had no names or numbers and it was essential for the firefighters to know whether a house needed to be saved. To this end, the company provided lead plaques that were fixed to outside walls. If the firemen saw a plaque on a burning building, they fought the fire. If not, they ignored it. The plaques were marked with the subscriber’s policy number but the practice of fixing plaques died out towards the end of the 19th Century.
Shrewsbury followed London’s example in 1837, when the
Examples of the plaques can still be seen at a number of places around Shrewsbury :-
11 Dogpole - on first floor wall
14 Dogpole – on first floor wall
13 Frankwell - above first floor window
43 Frankwell - on wall above door
116 Frankwell – on wall above door
Millington’s Hospital Frankwell – first floor wall of middle house
60 Mardol - on first floor wall
74 Mardol – on first floor wall
Murivance Cottage - on the front facade
4 New Street – on wall above door
8 Shoplatch - on first floor wall
10 St John’s Hill - in top middle pane of a window, probably a reproduction
20 St John’s Hill - on first floor wall
St John’s Row – on first floor wall
11 St Mary’s Place - on the wall between first floor windows.
The private company’s firefighters eventually joined the Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service. Today, this has around 500 full-time and retained firefighters based at 23 fire stations around the county. Day to day operational control of the service is handled by the Chief Fire Officer Rod Hammerton. He is helped by two Assistant Chief Fire Officers, Andy Johnson and Louise McKenzie.
Map from Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service’s website
For details of equipment see below
Full Time Crews
Aerial Ladder Platform
Bulk Foam Unit
Heavy Pumping Unit
Heavy Rescue Unit
High Volume Hose Layer
High Volume Pump
Hose Layer Unit
Incident Command & Control Unit
Incident Support Unit
Light 4x4 Pump
Light 6x6 Pump
Light Pumping Unit
Rapid Response Unit
Water Rescue Unit + Inshore Rescue Boat