Brownhills Fire Station (1959 until closure)

Situated in Chester Road North, opposite Holland Park, and the  Parade road junction, Brownhills Fire Station was part of Staffordshire Fire Brigade with a designated number of South East 5. The double fronted single storied building,  housed two operational appliances, with other vehicles stored inside the rear of the building. It had a large yard at the rear, used for training purposes, with a tall scaffolding tower, for drying hoses. On the top of this tower was an air raid siren, which was used to summon the retained volunteer firemen. A steel bunker housed a quantity of 2 gallon petrol cans to keep the engines and pumps topped up in instant readiness.

When I joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1959, there were two appliances on the run 24 hrs per day, one manned by a crew of full-time firemen, and the second machine, crewed by means of volunteer retained firemen. The first line of response vehicle, was a large 4 wheeled drive, Thornycroft Water Tender reg 877 MRF, similar to the photo.

Two crews of full-time, or regular firemen, working a shift pattern of 24 hrs  on, and 24 hrs off, manned this beast of a machine. Driven by a Rolls Royce petrol engine, this off-road Water Tender, carried a supply of  500 gallons of water, as well as a trailer pump for use on larger fires.

Sub Officer Jack Wickson, was in charge of Red Watch, and also had overall station control. His crew consisted of, Elijah Trawford, Colin Cartwright, Don Bickley, and Ted Foulkes. Blue Watch was led by, Leading Fireman George Simpson, with Fred Webb, Ray Pickard, Joe Smith, and Harry Whitehouse.

The second line appliance was a Leyland, open bodied Major Pump, which was manned by a team of volunteer retained firemen.

Retained firemen were volunteers who had to live or work within a time limit of 5 minutes from the station. In 1959 they composed of, Leading Fireman Alf Nichols, Jack Willdig, Tommy Cole, Brian Bond, Vic Chadwick, Ron Poxon, Charlie Russell, Keith Gittings and John Hart.

When I joined the AFS it took the numbers to three, myself, Leonard Plumb, and Ray Taylor. After attending a few fires as an observer, I successfully applied to become a retained fireman.With a bell in the bedroom for night calls and a siren to call us out during the day, life became on constant red alert. Clothes placed for quick dressing, bike ready for an instant get-away and ears pricked for the siren call.

With the retirement of  Chief Fire Officer Finney, his replacement, Chief Fire Officer David Blacktop, began to make improvements. Gradually all older machines were replaced with modern appliances. The Thornycroft was replaced with a Bedford TK Water Tender, fitted with a 40 ft Aluminium escape ladder.

The second  response engine was replaced with a Dennis F12 Water Tender conversion.

Fitted with a Rolls Royce Turbo petrol engine, the F12 in my opinion was the finest Fire Engine ever built, and it had a nice warm crew cab, a far cry from the Leyland we were used to.

In 1962 when I reached the age of 21, I passed out as a brigade driver, in the Dennis. No sat-nav in those days, not even a two-way radio. We had to know our patch, and location of all telephone boxes, which were our only contact with base.

During the 1960’s, improvements were continually being made. Blue flashing lights, and two-tone horns, replaced the large brass bell, and yes we eventually were fitted with two-way radio links to HQ at Pirehill Stafford. Our call signs were YG 381 and YG 382 respectively for the two appliances.

Further appliance upgrades, saw the Dennis replaced with a second Bedford TK Water Tender.

Later in the 1960’s the first response Bedford was replaced with an ERF. This was the first Diesel powered Fire Engine in Staffordshire Fire Brigade.

Improvements to the AFS section in the 1960’s saw a despatch rider division being formed at Brownhills, run by Sub Officer Don Ryder.

Occasional AFS exercises were run in various parts of Staffordshire, and I drove the Green Goddess on most of them.

Throughout the 1960’s, there were many changes to the personnel, with all the regular full-time firemen, retiring or moving on after attaining promotion, and further firemen recruited as shift pattens were changed. Sub Officer Wickson retired, and was replaced by Station Officer Ellis, who after a few years moved to another Brigade and Station Officer Haddock took his place. Fred Webb retired, Elijah Trawford retired to work in his shoe shop in Brownhills, and  Don Bickley moved to the Brigade transport division working for Divisional Officer Doody. Leading fireman Simpson moved to the day manning station at Lichfield, Ted Foulkes, Joe Smith, and Harry Whitehouse also retired, and Ray Pickard transferred to another station after promotion. Colin Cartwright retired on health grounds and started work at the HGV testing station at Featherstone.

There were also changes in the retained section, with Leading Fireman Nichols retiring, and John Hart and myself were promoted to Leading firemen. Jack Willdig, Brian Bond, and Charlie Russell also retired, and Tom Rivers, Arthur Bishop, Neville Probert, and my twin brothers Jimmy and Peter Hucker were recruited.

In 1969 the first line appliance moved to the newly built fire station in Aldridge, leaving just the retained crew at Brownhills, with one full timer on duty, to man the phones, and call out the part-time firemen when needed.

 After a few months a new retained station was built at Chase Terrace, and the stations at Brownhills, and Rushall were closed down. The Brownhills station was demolished, and two rows of Maisonettes built on the site.

Shortly after the stations closure, both Brownhills and Rushall crews attended a presentation and farewell get together, held at the new station in Aldridge. The following photo appeared in the Express and Star Newspaper.

30 Responses to “Brownhills Fire Station (1959 until closure)”

  1. chasewater stuff Says:

    Another first-class post, runner – but they still wouldn’t recognise you!!!

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  3. oakparkpacersrc Says:

    thanks for your comment, kind regards, Godfrey (oakparkrunner)

  4. Adam Says:

    Fantastic information and photographs. Do you have any more photos, maybe a station photo of Brownhills or Rushall ?

  5. oakparkrunner Says:

    Thanks for reading my blog and for your kind comments, Unfortunately the only photo’s of Brownhills Station are the ones in the blog. If I come across any of Rushall or any others that may interest you then I will E mail them to you. regards Godfrey

  6. Dave Says:

    IIt was very interesting reading al your comments on this site.

    I served with the AFS for three years prior to its disbandment,at Water Street Fire Station at Stafford. Our green goddess was SP14,and its regisration number was PGW 513.

    If anyone from the Stafforshire contingent of the AFS has any photo,s of any of the exercises which we took part in ,wiil you please contact me on sheila.david

    Thanks, Dave

  7. Graham Swift Staffs FRS Archives Says:

    Do you know the reg number of the Dennis F12 you had was it 70 ARE or 992 BRF.

  8. Adam Griffiths Says:

    Interesting link here

  9. Steve Dodge Says:

    Sir , Thankyou for such detail! I googled Brownhills fire station as a result of an article in the Lichfield Mercury reporting on a severe fire in Lichfield attended by Lichfield Tamworth and Brownhills . I never expected to find such information, Thankyou. What I would like to do is ask if you could contact me to discuss a potential feature for our magazine Fire Cover. I can send a copy of our quarterly magazine to you so that you can see part of what we are about- its our 50th anniversary year and I am involved with organising a couple of big visits to Manchester where we were founded. I notice a couple of Society members have commented on your page. I live inAlrewas and work in Aldridge. I hope we can assist each other and thanks in advance for your site and any help you may be able to give. I can remember playing on the park opposite the station years ago and seeing the fire engines parked on the front.I also think Aldridhe we to three pumps when first opened. Thanks again, Steve.

  10. Graham Hart Says:

    What great memories, my name is Graham Hart, John Hart’s son, I to ended up in Staffs Fire service, must have been in the genes, I recently retired after 24 years service, was based at Stafford most of the time. This blog has made me smile, the picture of the Leyland open cab has a very small boy in a lovely knitted balaclava on, well that,s me. what a find, thanks for the memory. Regards Graham.

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  12. Clive Says:

    I can just remember the old fire station in Brownhills. Thanks for the memorys Godfrey, great blog mate.

  13. Paula Poxon Says:

    It’s lovely to see my dad, Ron Poxon, in this photograph. He’s told me lots of stories about being in the brigade over the years. My dad’s the second from the left on the bottom row. Vic Chadwick lived across the road from us.

  14. John Bishop Says:

    I typed in photos of Brownhills and up popped the picture of the group of firemen including my dad Arthur Bishop,my brother David and i spent quite some time in the station especially when out shopping with dad and he responded to a shout and we were deposited until he returned or we wandered off home.

  15. k.G.POOLE Says:

    very interesting historical article.The Dennis f12 conversion to a water tender later finished up at Tamworth station where I was stationed in the 1960.s its reg no was 70ARF. We had also a Bedford TK water tender reg no 709 FBF. In 1972 I moved to Aldridge on promotion and served with many transferred from Brownhills. My long time friend Frank Cotterill served at Brownhills and later with me at Tamworth. ken Poole.

  16. Reg Fullelove Says:

    What memories you have stirred for an 84 year old retained man!! I remember as a 20 year old dashing to the call of Wicksons bell, to catch the first machine. Also the midnight dash when coughing and spluttering into the cab with the words “where we going?” “has anybody brought any fags??” One name that was missing as a popular lad Roy Princep. Oh for the old days of my trusty bike…from 39 Chester Road.

  17. kgpoole Says:

    Ref: registration No of Dennis F12 at Tamworth 1960’s. Only 95% sure but XRE 520 seems to fit the bill. I do however know a retired colleague who was a regular driver at that time who I will ask. If any help to you Stafford Station had a F12 PE on the run early 60’s Reg: No 993 BRF.

    • Peter Gallacher Says:

      I served with Ken Poole, and Frank Cotterill at Tamworth in the late 60`s and early 70`s until I transferred to Lichfield. I passed my driving test at Tamworth with the Dennis F12 , taken by DO Doody. Happy days !! Peter Gallacher 1802 Ex Junior Fireman . Finished career in High Wycombe Bucks back in 1993.

  18. onefouronetwo Says:

    Does anyone anything about the AFS crews ect, from Rugeley please? Look

  19. jenny Berry Says:

    just reminiscing,remember the annual display at Stafford, l use to enjoy the company and many a tale told to me by my husband Colin Berry, who unfortunately passed away November 2015 with cancer. lovely memories for me. Jenny Berry

    • oakparkrunner Says:

      Yes we had some good times then, sorry to hear about Colin, happy memories regards godfrey ( oakparkrunner)

      • aerreg Says:

        wonderful days of comradeship when those big bells situated on the stair case at chester road council houses rang out you fled like bumble bee to the station no questions ask just get that engine on the road day or night grass fire super equipment a short broom stale with apiece of flat hose attached and plenty of elbow grease and team spirit tuesday night was drill night and those branch nozells weighed a ton two mutch for one man to hold wonderful memouries of the black helmit and leather boot boys oh i must not forget the firemans ax god bless thanfs for the memory

  20. Robin Draper Says:

    Thanks for this blog. I have fond childhood memories of the Bedford TK appliances that operated from Brownhills, Lichfield and Chase Terrace (I grew up in Chasetown). I now know the reg numbers of the Brownhills appliances, but I would like to know those from Lichfield and Chase Terrace (which up until now I have assumed to be an ex-Brownhills machine. Any idea where I might find this info?

    • oakparkrunner Says:

      Hello Robin thanks for your comment, I cannot help with the other appliances. The Bedford 712 FBF was replaced at Brownhills with the ERF a few years before the station closed. Where they went to I do not know. Sorry kind regards Godfrey ( oakparkrunner )

  21. Terence Kenny Says:

    I was in Dudley AFS from ’62 to ’68 and competed in the annual Stafford games at, I think, GEC sports ground.Happy Days and Memories. Terry Kenny.

    • Joanne Bishop Says:

      My Dad was Arthur Bishop. We still have a few photos if you’d like me to post them.
      Unfortunately my Dad passed away on Monday 2nd September at 20.00.

      • oakparkrunner Says:

        Hello Joanne only just found this comment. Sorry to hear about your dad, used to see him around the Wood. Yes would like to see the photos please if you can kind regards Godfrey

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