30th September 2021

Melbourne’s Early Fire Brigades: Part 2

Below is an exert from the story of Mr J. T. Wilkins upon his retirement as a fireman in 1940.

The Herald (Melbourne), 26th January 1940 page 7.


Richmond City Fire Brigade.

No backmark. Squashed loop shank. c.1883-1891.

 The original Richmond Fire Brigade was established around 1852, being one of the oldest in the Melbourne district. It received its first engine (water pump) and ‘appurtenances’ in 1855 from insurance companies. In 1865 it was reported that there was both an old and new brigade. Five years later in 1870 the Volunteers (the old) were disbanded due to council interference . In 1871 the ‘new’ brigade organised by the council managed to put out a fire in St Stephen’s Church without spoiling the recently purchased organ! However, this brigade did not last long and in 1872 there was a “newly formed” Richmond Fire Brigade. In 1874 this consisted of 12 paid firemen. As they were paid per fire attended, coincidentally there seemed to be an increase in the number of fires! As this was costing the council a lot of money, the council changed the brigade to be partly staffed by volunteers. The number of fires dropped off! However, there was resentment from the volunteers that they were not being paid as were their professional colleagues. Therefore the brigade was re-reformed as volunteer only.

In 1883 the Richmond City Fire Brigade was first mentioned, operating along with the Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade. I’m not sure if the volunteer unit existed after 1889, but the ‘City’ brigade existed until the formation of the MFB.

Royal Historical Society of Victoria: View of Richmond looking north, taken from the old fire bell tower,1873,  taken by George Ross Reid.

The first MFB Richmond base, built in 1893.

From Wikimedia. Photographer Andy Scott. The old station in 2018.

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