Friday, 21 January 2011


Kath asked what insurance plaques look like so I went off to Cuddington because I knew there was a house in the village which had a fire mark.
The gentleman who answered the door when I knocked gave me permission to photograph the mark on his house but didn't know a lot about it, just that it was there when he bought the property.
There are three symbols - a crown, the word ROYAL and what might be a phoenix at the bottom. There was a Phoenix Insurance company and between 1683 and 1730 twenty-three thousand policies were written, so perhaps there was an amalgamation with the two other companies at some time. It's on the front wall, placed high up, almost to gutter height.

I remembered that there had been a talk by Phil Morris on Fire Marks at a Bucks Family History Society meeting and found the report in the journal for June 2005. He told the audience that materials used for the marks varied between lead, cast lead, brass, zinc, sheet and cast iron and ceramics.

One thing leads to another - the brass helmets which Victorian firemen wore became a hazard with broken electrical wires liable to make contact with them with unfortunate results.
King Edward VII liked to go firefighting when he was Prince of Wales and his uniform was kept at a Charing Cross station.
Victorian firemen were recruited from watermen working on the Thames. Is this why each station nowadays has the day split into watches?
In 1833 the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed, the Chief being James Braidwood. He lost his life in the Tooley Street fire in 1861, leading to the founding of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade 5 years later. There is a Street and a Road named after him.
He was suceeded as Chief by Massey Shaw, a name I remember as (prewar) my Mum took a photo of the fireboat named after him. The boat was one of the 'little ships' which lifted men from the Dunkirk beaches in May 1940. It seems that it's now being restored.


Kath said...

How very interesting, I am pleased you showed this plaque. I wonder how many of them remain and whether the owners, like your chap, are unaware of their significance.
I have seen them for sale in reclaimation yards.
As an aside (regarding fire fighters), you probably know this,but each "watch" had it's own design of metal buttons for their tunic. This was because a fireman badly burned and unrecognisable, could be quickly identified by his buttons, presumably if there was more than one unit attending.

Micki said...

Glad that Kath asked about it...what an interesting story, and what a neat plaque that is.

Sylve said...

Hi Micki,
This is the only house I remembered with a fire mark but it'll make me look out for more now. Glad you found it interesting.