Fire Engines Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade 1897 - to the early 1970's and beyond.
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Page last updated: 18/11/2023 Sawbridgeworth Fire Brigade - Fire Engines  

'The' Steam Fire Engine on show.
Sawbridgeworth's first steam fire engine was a Shand Mason, the only reference to which I can find is in the Minute Book of the Brigade for the general meeting of the 19th June 1903 where the Secretary was directed to enquire of Shand Mason whether they could provide a man for Drill Instruction. There are unfortunately no pictures of this appliance(*) but obviously Sawbridgeworth had two different Steam Fire Engines, presumably the Merryweather replacing the Shand Mason in 1912. The cost of the Merryweather Steam Fire Engine purchased by the Council in 1912 is unknown, but the Brigade contributed 40. 15. 9d from their funds. The Fire Engine was eventually "disposed of" with a bad condition boiler in or around October 1937.
The Webmaster is indebted to Roger Mardon for providing evidence of the Merryweather records of the supply of the Steamer to Sawbridgeworth from which the photograph to the left is extracted. The two pages of the publication "The Fireman" dated May 1st 1912 are available here in PDF format.   (*)Roger Marsden later identified that the Shand Mason appliance was a 300 Gallons Per Minute single vertical steamer supplied in 1878 as published in the Shand Mason & Co's catalogue "Steam Fire Engines, Part 1.

'The' Steam Fire Engine, Wheeled Escape & Manual Pump

This 'group' picture taken on the fair Green in Sawbridgeworth is assumed to be around 1913-1915 related to those that can be recognised. It is the only evidence available that shows that the town had a Manual Fire Pump for fire fighting. According to the Minute Book, this Fire Engine was 'disposed of' to the Government for the sum of 35. 0. 0d in February / March 1918. Much later on the Brigade had another Manual built in 1844 which was used well into the late 1940's purely for 'exhibition' demonstrations at Fetes etc. It is believed this latter one was originally the White Roding or Leading Roding Fire Engine. (A duplicate photograph is included on the Photo Gallery page with some names and additional information.)

Hatfield Heath Whit. Monday 1913 'The' Steam Fire Engine again, at Hatfield Heath 1913.

(This is a photocopy of the original photograph because the original is so faded!)


The Merryweather thought to be at Pishiobury Park.
Left Willam (Bill) Prior; Far right Jack Baker.
(Picture supplied by John Dear)

Dennis Motor Fire Engine [ More Information ]

There is very little known about this appliance other than, as can be seen in this picture (when enlarged), that it was a solid tyre vehicle. Records show that it was purchased second hand by the Urban District Council in 1928 for 210.0.0d of which the Brigade contributed 50.0.0d. From the available photographs its registration number was RN LH 8642. It was involved in a road traffic accident with a lorry at the junction of Bell Street and London Road on the 6th February 1934 at around 11pm while on a call to a fire at Exnalls Farm Much Hadham. None of the crew were injured but the front axle was damaged and the appliance put out of action. According to a newspaper cutting of the time the Sawbridgeworth Steamer was then brought back into action and used at the fire. Back in August 1929 the Dennis was pumping for 48 hours continuously at the H. A. & D. Taylors R7 Malting fire. The photograph is repeated in the Photo Gallery page of the Web Site where information is provided on some of the Firemen recognised.

1935 Leyland Cub
This appliance was purchased new by Sawbridgeworth Urban District Council in 1935. It replaced the Dennis mentioned above and was soon to be absorbed into the NFS and subsequently to be taken over by the Hertforshire County Council in 1948. The ladder was an Ajax 35ft wire reinforced two section extending ladder. The appliance was fitted with a 500 gallons per minute prop-shaft driven on board centrifugal water pump and had two 2" hose outlet connections at the rear. It also had a 50 gallon centrally mounted water tank and a " hose reel which is visible in the picture. The vehicle registration number was ARO 480. It remained in service at Sawbridgeworth until the 16th September 1954 having done only something like 5,000 miles in 19 years. As with most appliances of the era it was well embellished with brass but was always spotless, having had many hours of care, even right to the end. Television and long distance travel had not yet taken over people's lives after the normal days work!

The photograph was taken by S.E. Mardon of Bishop's Stortford was taken at Hyde Hall, Sawbridgeworth soon after the new appliance was supplied. The photograph is repeated in the Photo Gallery page of the Web Site where information is provided on the Firemen themselves.


1949 - 1954 Ford (Fordson 7V) Water Tender (Lorry Conversion)

This Water Tender was the first 'appliance' supplied following the transfer of responsibility for fire brigades from NFS to Hertfordshire County Council and replaced the wartime Austin Towing Vehicle (TV) that can be seen in the picture of 1948 at the disbanding of the NFS [Photo Gallery].  With enlargement a little more detail is visible - this was a very basic ford lorry chassis probably with a loading capacity of about 5 tons. The bell on the front was manually operated by the Officer in Charge in the passenger seat via a lever projecting into the cab - like a swing handle. Immediately behind the front cab was another cab facing the rear and open - inside it had hinged boxes for basic equipment (ropes etc.) and on top, seating for the crew. Behind this and centrally mounted was a 400 gallon water tank and immediately behind that a small two wheeled self contained 150 Gallon Per Minute (GPM) Coventry Climax pump, clamped to the vehicle floor. This could be demounted and lifted to the ground by two men but was normally 'permanently' connected to the water tank to supply a standard " hose reel mounted on the rear hose box. At the very rear there was a vehicle-wide hose box with two rows of  2" canvas hose (some 2" rubber lined by this time), one above the other enclosed with a top hinged door. The vehicle towed a standard Coventry Climax 250 GPM trailer pump (previously NFS supplied for the TV) and carried a 30' wood extension ladder. Just behind the rear wheels were mounted 2 gallon cans of foam - these can be seen in the picture. The whole vehicle was a bit unstable and had to be cornered carefully as it had a very heavy tail end and the 400 gallons of water being mounted so high close to the centre of the chassis!

The original photograph (just 60mm x 60mm) was taken at the front of Gilston Park hotel (later being purchased by Smith & Nephew for offices) by a friend of the two ladies that can be seen to the left. Being a hotel it had a predetermined attendance of two pumps, hence both Sawbridgeworth appliances in attendance. The back of the photograph is endorsed "From Mrs. E. Jermin & Mrs. F. Archer" and was taken during the response to a fire call, around 8am, that I believe related to an incident in one of the kitchens. The photograph was addressed to Sub Officer Frank Wright at the Fire Station with a short covering letter that congratulated the brigade on a very prompt response. Frank Wright is standing to the right of the Water Tender, hands on hips, and just behind him, L/Fm Len Read. Others in the picture cannot be identified. It was obviously Spring time as daffodils can be seen in the grass area.

1954 - 1971

*Bedford Water Tender SRO 543 (#) Note. A slight variation of this picture with the crew names, is in the Photo Gallery.

Although this picture left was taken on the fair Green in 1971 this appliance was delivered to Sawbridgeworth on the 16th September 1954 replacing the Ford Water Tender. This brand new appliance was the first Coach Built Fire Engine since the Leyland in 1935. It was equipped with two electric bells and 'blinking' double orange lights mounted centrally above the windscreen. Quite soon after it was equipped with twin horns, the sound of which became familiar for emergency services generally. By the time this picture was taken the wooden Ajax ladder had been replaced with an aluminium one. *Information provided by Roger Mardon, for which the Webmaster is grateful, indicates its manufactured as a Bedford S chassis with bodywork and fire engineering by Alfred Miles Ltd of Cheltenham in that year.

Bedford Water Tender (1956)
In the picture left the original Ajax Wooden ladder (supplied with the Leyland Cub ARO 480) is still in use! Sometime later still it was fitted with a revolving blue light mounted on top of the cab (**). The first fire that was attended with the blue light was at Woolworth's Store in Harlow Town Centre - the only appliance carrying it and causing considerable 'interest' from the Essex brigades in attendance. The lamp can just be seen in the photograph which was taken on Monday 11th June 1962 (Log book of that date) while parked outside of the Playing Fields at the Sawbridgeworth Whitsun Carnival -Fete. This time the appliance had to remain on radio call under the rules laid down by Head Quarters and outside of the actual event field. The appliance had a prop-shaft driven main Dennis pump which was always primed by the supply from the 400 gallon centrally mounted tank. This was a very stable vehicle to drive in comparison with the previous ford lorry adaption. It had two hose reels, one either side and, as can be seen in the picture, hose lockers also either side. Mounted centrally on the back, above the main pump, was a Coventry Climax 150 g.p.m. wheeled light pump. This could be taken off the appliance using two steel ramps. At the same time as the delivery of this appliance the Brigade were issued with Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus of which two sets were carried. These replaced the previous somewhat cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear Seibe Gorman Oxygen sets.
(**) It will be noted that on the centre front top of the cab the photo shows two lamps. These were the original flashing Orange warning lamps as were supplied when new and delivered to Sawbridgeworth. These no longer functioned when the blue light was fitted. The appliance double bells were still also in use - no siren horns at this time either.

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Update: SRO 543 ended it's service time with a purchase by L/Fm Graham Joiner based whole time at Cheshunt Hertfordshire, living in a service house near to the Station he was allowed to keep this on their drill ground. However during the long Firemen's strike of the 1970's he was targeted by strikers as he remained in service and SRO 543 became a victim of the actions of these strikers and was badly damaged. When Graham was last contacted he mentioned that he had subsequently sold it on to a Circus for use in washing down their Elephants.
Update... With thanks to Andy Ballisat (Ex Sawbridgeworth Fireman with overall service of 30 years) for the information (December 2020)
   1972 - 1980 It is apparent that a 1964 Bedford TK Miles 1964 TK (type KELZ) chassis with a 300 cubic inch (4.9 litre) straight six petrol engine - 4 speed manual gear box, with a Dennis 133 by, 500 gpm pump (AJH 556B) replaced the previous Bedford in 1972 and was at Sawbridgeworth up to 1980.

As can be seen the photograph is not local but of the appliance having been preserved and on show at an air show having been photographed by Simon Lincoln, Hertfordshire Fire Brigade.
(See also Archive Photo)

1981 - 1988 Far left and right... A 1970 Dennis F46 NNK 568H which replaced AJH 556B in 1980/81. It is seen here outside the Church Street Fire Station with Sub Officer Dave Dellow, Phil Maiden, Andy Ballisat and Tony Kitchener. Date unknown. Served at Hatfield before Sawbridgeworth, 1970 Dennis F46 8 cylinder B81 Rolls Royce petrol engine, narrower appliance at only 7' wide. Believed to have been exported out of the UK (Data obtained from DVLA).
Prior to the introduction of the New Appliance below the appliance shown left, a Dodge with an HCB Angus Body VNK 121S, was on station. It would seem as an interim appliance, which was apparently ex Bishop's Stortford. The Photograph was taken at the Weeting Steam Rally near Brandon, Norfolk in the mid 1990's. An organized coach trip there from the Town to this Rally included a few men of the station and their families. All seemed surprised to see it as this appliance is thought to have left Sawbridgeworth around 1987. As will be clear, the appliance had been adapted considerably to a Rescue Recovery vehicle based, it would seem, in the local area.
 With thanks to Andy Ballisat (Ex Fireman 1972- 2002) for the information and his photograph - (December 2020)
Another photo of this vehicle at
probably a different show.
With thanks to Simon Lincoln
Hertfordshire Fire Brigade
(December 2020)
This Honda 'pseudo Fire Appliance' photo was taken by Andy Ballisat in 1996. This little truck was given to the Station for the purpose of raising money for the then Fire Services Benevolent Fund, now Fire Fighters Charity. It was new to the local business of Emery's Electrical in London Road and the Late Fireman Brian Rochester was instrumental in this as he was employed there and concurrently a Non Serving Benevolent Representative. It is fairly certain that this vehicle was gifted by Jeff Emery himself but it cannot be certain if money was exchanged. If it were a gift that was very generous indeed! This was kept for a few years in the main bay shared with the station's main appliance but later housed in the end bay. It was originally a pick-up but was converted to what is shown and the woodwork was the craft and skill of the then serving F/m Tony Kitchener who was a fine carpenter & joiner by trade. L/Fm Richard Oakley who was a serving Benevolent Representative undertook the mechanical work, a mechanic by trade. Brian Rochester himself spent many hours on preparing for painting and then finally painting it among some electrical jobs. These three personnel were the most involved in it's creation with most of the other serving members doing the odd job here and there and taking it out. As for getting the finished vehicle to shows and open days etc. there was a trailer and the Honda was mainly kept on it. Toward the end of it's existence it was fortunate to have the use of Ian Fern's (of Ian Fern Motor Vehicle Engineers of Takeley) VW LT Beavertail vehicle to convey it around. On attending an open day at Stevenage a good amount of money was raised together with that over a good few years. Unfortunately this method of raising money came to an end due to the Health and Safety involving the "Children's' Rides" as there were no seatbelts or any harnesses fitted. 10 to 12 children could originally be carried around on each ride.
With thanks to Andy Ballisat (March 2021)
In February 1999 this Dennis SS appliance F657 LNM was brought in to cover for the routine maintenance of E808 BMJ DS below. However, the temporary cover lasted a little longer than was scheduled as the DS when returned from the County Workshops was showing damage to the paintwork and had to be returned to workshops for repainting!
1988 - Aug 2000
The Sawbridgeworth appliance
The picture of E808 BMJ Dennis in the Station Road yard (left) is a 1988 Dennis DS 153 Carmichael (DS was a shorter wheel base than the SS). Brand new to the station in 1988 and served until August 2000 when it was replaced by Dennis SS235 registration K23 APP (first registered December 1992). It is assumed that the picture of E808 BMJ was taken when the fire engine was new as the badge on the doors changed around 88/89 from the round one that is displayed to a more linear badge with the Hart above the words Hertfordshire County Council (top right). The newer badge is shown on E805 BMJ (bottom right), obviously registered at same time but displayed for badge comparison only. This newer badge lasted into the 2000's and has been updated couple of times since. With a Perkins Phaser engine the DS is almost the same as the SS/RS models but was shorter at 21', and has a shorter wheelbase of 12'9" which was 20" less. It was also narrower by 6" at only 7' wide (only room for single headlamps each side due to the width), ideally suited to rural stations. The DS succeeded the previous D series as being a narrow appliance but has a steel cab rather than wood and fibreglass. Fixed cab with access panels to access engine.
The photo bottom left is the same appliance after it finished active service when it had the ladder removed and used for training at HFRS Training Centre, Longfields, Stevenage taken in 2001.
Photo with acknowledgement and supplied by Andy Ballisat - (January 2021)
Training Stevenage
Aug 2000 - 2002

K23 APP Served at Royston before Sawbridgeworth.
1992 Dennis SS 235 JDC WrL 8300cc Cummins diesel engine, Godiva model GMB2700/108 PTO operated pump, 2700l/min. The SS model has the same cab design as the Dennis DS and RS models but had a tilting cab to access the engine, rather than lift out access panels.

Photo with thanks to Andy Ballisat - February 2021

2002- Mar 2007

N852 FBM Served at Baldock & Letchworth before arriving at Sawbridgeworth in 2002, in 2007 she became a fleet reserve, and then moved on in 2009 to fire cadets at St Albans. She was finally sold out of service in May 2014.
1995 Dennis Sabre ML (medium length) 1800l water, 2250l/min Godiva world series pump. Carried 13.5m, 9m, triple extension and roof ladders.
Mar 2007 - 2010
P248 VMJ Came to Sawbridgeworth as a spare and as it was newer it was subsequently kept as a replacement for N852 FBM. Went back on to the spares fleet after Sawbridgeworth got KE53 VFH, before finally being taken off fleet and sold.
1996 Dennis Sabre XL 1800l water, 2250l/min Godiva world series pump. Carried 13.5m, 9m, triple extension and roof ladders.
2010 - Feb 2014
KE53 VFH Served at St Albans before moving to Sawbridgeworth, now a service spare.
2003 Dennis Sabre ML JDC 1800l water, 2250l/min Godiva world series pump. Carried 13.5m, 9m, triple extension and roof ladders. December 2016 - Sold out of service.
R/H Photo with acknowledgement and supplied by Andy Ballisat - (November 2023)
Feb 2014 - Aug 2015
GN58 FDY Served at Bushey, then moved to Sawbridgeworth following the closure of Bushey, now at Longfield training centre as a training appliance. Purchased as a smaller appliance for retained stations. Marked the end of Dennis appliances being at Sawbridgeworth. 2008 MAN TGM 12.240 JDC 1800l water, 2250l/min Godiva prima pump. Carried 13.5m, 9m, triple extension and roof ladders. Left from Training centre and became Cadet firefighters fire engine. Jan 2022 Sold out of service.
Aug 2015
KX59 MGJ Served at Stevenage prior to Sawbridgeworth.
2009 Scania P270 JDC 9 litre, 270bhp engine, 1800l water, 2250l/min Godiva prima pump. Carries 13.5m, 9m, triple extension and roof ladders. Now on the spares fleet, backfilling fire engines when maintenance or a service is required.
Nov 2021 - current ET16VDE Scania P280. Previously served, from new, at Rickmansworth. It has a few new features to us, push button pump controls and digital gauges on a tablet style screen in pump bay, similar tablet screen in cab, for light operation, inc scene lights, pelmet lights and locker lights, that help illuminate in and around the fire engine. Graphical displays of lockers open or closed, which lights are on and seatbelt status. It has a lane avoidance system and an auto braking system. Battery powered hydraulic cutting equipment compared to our last petrol engine driving cutting equipment. Much more manoeuvrable but a lot heavier as there are more items built into the tool (battery, hydraulic motor, hydraulic fluid reservoir).

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