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The Rushden Echo, 9th September, 1927, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden Fire Brigade Jubilee

Thousands Witness Procession And Service
Lord Ampthill Leads Parade
Rushden Council’s Example To Other Authorities

  Although the procession of firemen at Rushden on Sunday afternoon was not as long as expected, the spectacle of 200 men, in shining silver or brass helmets, marching down High-street was impressive.  They were led by a tall, well-proportioned figure, that of Lord Ampthill, who is president of the National Association of Fire Brigades.

 The occasion was the celebration of the jubilee of the Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade.  Appropriately enough, the new motor-pump of the brigade arrived on Saturday, the day before the parade.  Naturally it looked very clean and bright with its new coat of red paint.  The steamer and tender were not to have their noses put out of joint by the new-comer, however, and they presented a smart appearance.  It would hardly be correct to say that they were specially “done up” for the occasion, because the Rushden firemen have made it a stern duty to keep all their vehicles and equipment spick and span.  It is essential to speed and efficiency.  The vehicles appeared as they would on any other day, except that it was unusual for them to go at marching pace. There was an opportunity to size up their merits.  Usually they fly past so quickly that one is hardly aware of the loving care with which they are nursed.

  Two Rushden bands provided the musical rhythm for the marching, - Rushden Town and Rushden Mission, and some of the visiting firemen commented afterwards on the pace the Town Band set in the lead.  “A fine spirited band,” was the way one expressed himself.

  About 15 brigades were represented, the officers wearing the silver and the men the brass helmets.  All had dark blue uniforms, mostly with broad red stripes down the seams of the trousers.  A number of officers and men wore special decorations.

  Forming up in the Cemetery Field, where they were inspected by Lord Ampthill, the parade consisted of the following brigades:  Rushden (under Chief Officer R. F. Knight and Second Officer W. Packwood), Rushden C.W.S. (Chief Officer J. Wildman), Bedford (Chief Officer Corby, chairman of the association), Kettering (Brewer), Higham Ferrers (Sudborough), Raunds (Clarke), Irthlingborough (Second Officer Pack), Finedon (Bailey), Earls Barton, Olney, Oundle, Market Harborough, and Stamford.

  The steamer, pump, and tender went ahead to Spencer Park, where they were placed at one end of a large roped enclosure.  The body of firemen, with local Rovers and Boy Scouts (under Commissioner F. E. Preston and Scoutmaster B. Houghton) and Girl Guides, marched through High-street, where large crowds had assembled along the foot-paths, to the enclosure in the park.  They formed up before the steamer, etc., the officers, led by Lord Ampthill, in front.  High up on the platform of the steamer stood the Curate of St. Mary’s (the Rev. G. Hatt Lipscomb) and the pastor of the Wesleyan Reform Mission (the Rev. E. E. Bromage).  Below, on two long benches, sat members of the Rushden Urban District Council – Messrs. J. Hornsby, J.P. (chairman), F. Corby (vice-chairman), D. G. Greenfield, M.D., C. Claridge, C. W. Horrell, C.A., J. Roe, A. Allebone, and T. F. B. Newberry – with Mr. A. H. Sartoris, J.P., C.C.

  Outside the enclosure, on all sides, there was a vast concourse of people, numbering about 5,000, the largest gathering seen in the park for years.  Most of them joined in the service of thankfulness and dedication.  The service was simple, with three hymns, a Psalm, a Bible reading, and a brief sermon.  Mr. Bromage read the Psalm and lesson.

  The Curate, in his brief sermon, thanked the Fire Brigade for their 50 years of devoted and heroic service, of which they had had so recent an example.  Taking the text “His servants shall serve Him, and therefore they shall see His face” (Rev. xxii. 3), he pointed out that the motto of the Prince of Wales was “I serve.”  The Prince was a wonderful character, always doing the right thing at the right moment.  The true prince was a servant, and the true servant was a prince.  Service was a privilege of Christianity – not lip service, but true service.  Every fact in the life of Christ was intended to be a factor in our lives.  And each fact was a truth, a revelation.  Humility was the first, second, and third steps to heaven, as St. Augustine had said.  Christ’s life was a call to whole-hearted service.  Heaven was not a place of endless sitting on soft cushions and playing golden harps.  It was a place of work and service.  Christ’s life and death were a revelation of sacrifice.  His Resurrection was a revelation of His Lordship, calling for unquestioning obedience.  His Ascension was a revelation of the need for spiritual fellowship.

  The procession was re-formed and marched back through High-street to Alfred-street, where it was dismissed.  A little later those taking part gathered for tea in the Co-operative Hall, the tea being served efficiently by the Rushden Co-operative Society.  At a special table on the platform sat Lord Ampthill, Chief Officer Corby, Chief Officer R. F. Knight, Hon. Captain Fred Knight, J.P. (former Chief Officer of the Rushden brigade), and other Councillors.

  Mr. Hornsby, as chairman of the Rushden Urban District Council, extended hearty welcome to all.  Since the brigade started 50 years ago Rushden had developed considerably.  He remembered when they had only a manual to deal with a fire.  And they had an insufficient water supply.  To-day that was remedied.  Times had changed.  The brigade asked the Council for more up-to-date equipment, and a steamer was provided.  Later a motor-tender was provided, and it had done useful service.  Recently they purchased a motor-pump.  It was the duty of every authority to do their uttermost to get the most efficient and up-to-date equipment for their fire brigades.  Every member of a fire brigade was doing a noble work for the community.  The Rushden brigade was deeply concerned in their work.  He thanked Lord Ampthill for coming among them.  (Applause.)  They were delighted to have him, and they appreciated the honour he had conferred upon them.  He hoped that the visitors would carry away a happy recollection of their visit to Rushden.

  Chief Officer R. f. Knight offered Lord Ampthill their best thanks for taking command of the parade.  They did not like to deprive him of his Sunday afternoon nap, but he was such a distinguished fire-fighting officer that they felt it a duty to invite him.

  Mr. Knight called for three cheers for Lord Ampthill, and these were heartily given.

  Lord Ampthill returned thanks for “a kindly and hearty welcome.”  An afternoon nap, he said, was an indulgence he never had, even on Sunday – (laughter) – and he could never enjoy himself better than when he was among firemen.  He recognised their self-sacrifice and devotion, and he agreed that it was the duty of every authority to see that the brigades were properly equipped. That had not been recognised all over the country, but he hoped that it soon would.  He was glad it had been realised at Rushden.  He offered to the Rushden brigade hearty congratulations on their record of service.  Even London firemen were pleased to hear that they had completed 50 years’ service.  On behalf of the National Association of which he was president, he wished that the Rushden brigade might go from strength to strength.  He congratulated Captain Knight on the excellent arrangements made for that day.  They were thankful they had had pretty good weather.  It was a great thing for firemen to meet like that; they realised that they must be ready to do all they could in emergencies.  Fires, unchecked, might cause much loss of life and damage.  He could only compare their work to that of the National Life-boat Association – ready to be called out of bed at any time to take any risk required.  There were many dangers from modern machinery, electric currents, and intricate construction of buildings, etc., which increased the peril of modern fire-fighting.  It was becoming more complicated every year, and it was up to firemen to learn every department of their work.  “Don’t neglect the first-aid knowledge; you may be able to save the life of a comrade injured in a place inaccessible to the Ambulance Association.”  (Applause.)

  Mr. Hornsby called on Mr. Fred Knight, “who has been with the brigade since its formation.”  Mr. Knight said that it was a unique occasion and others would follow.  Fifty years ago there was not such an interest taken in fire brigades by local authorities.  Our own county was very liable to fires.  Leather burned well and wore well – or should do.  (Laughter.)  They must consider not only the loss caused by fire directly to owners of property, but the great number thrown out of work.  No one had greater experience than Lord Ampthill of the necessity of local authorities providing the requirements to cope with fires of all descriptions.  As far as the Rushden Fire Brigade was concerned, the local Council always considered any reasonable proposition made.  He was one of the first to join the brigade, and at the death of Mr. Foskett, the first captain, he (Mr. Knight) took over his duties.  After 35 years his son took over his place.  “His experience will be the same as mine – a sympathetic Council to deal with and the support of all reasonable requests.” 

  Mr. Fred Knight said he was pleased to see so many friends there.  Some he had known many years; others he had met for the first time.  He was as pleased to meet new friends as old friends.  He hoped that day would be a stimulus to all.  “Go home and say you have had a pleasant afternoon.  Remember the jubilee held at Rushden, and when yours come invite us and we will come and give you the same support as you have extended to us.”  Mr. Knight gave special thanks for the efforts to help the widows and orphans of firemen by collections in the streets.  (Applause.)

  Captain R. F. Knight thanked Mr. Hornsby and other members of the Council, the bands who gave their services “Rushden has always been noted for its bands, and they are always willing to help any deserving cause” - the collectors, the Boy Scouts, Rovers, and Girl Guides, and the Co-operative Society for supplying tea on a Sunday.


Rushden Brigade’s Fifty Years

  Visitors who inspected the pictures at the Rushden Fire Station on Sunday heard interesting details of the 50-years history of the Rushden brigade.  Naturally they were told of the great fire in the early part of 1877, when the first factory built for Messrs. John Cave and Sons was completely gutted.  That was not a large fire as we know them in these days, but it excited the village, and there was long-remembered tragedy in it, as Mr. Elias Cave, a son of the founder, was killed by a falling wall.  As on outcome of that fire the Rushden Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed, and in less than a year they had their manual and a station and 30 members.

  William Foskett, builder and carpenter, was the first captain, and he served faithfully for eight years, after which Mr. Fred Knight, who was his second officer, became captain, a position he held with distinction for 35 years.  He is now honorary captain and the only serving member of the original brigade.

  It was under Captain Knight’s leadership that in 1901 the brigade was set the gigantic task of tackling the second great fire of Messrs. John Cave and Sons’ factory.  The fire broke out one hot Friday dinner-time, and, though fire-fighters of Rushden and several other brigades were quickly on the scene, the terrible lack of water made it impossible to save the factory.  Commendable success was achieved in saving property all around the great factory.  The present fire station in Newton-road and the town’s supply of water from Sywell are some of the results of that great fire.  Not less important an outcome of the disaster was the maintenance of recruits to the brigade, who have been keen energetic men of splendid physique and endurance.  They had an excellent lead from their captain and from Second Officer G. R. Turner (who retired some years ago on leaving the district).  Captain F. Knight (now hon. Captain) has been associated with the Rushden brigade for 50 years.  Mr. Turner was a member of a London fire brigade before he came to Rushden and had helped to fight such historic fires as the old Haymarket fire.

  Before the Rushen Fire Brigade members were summoned by electric calls the big bell at St. Mary’s Church used to be rung to give the alarm.  The splendid equipment of to-day has been wisely provided by the Urban Council, acting on the lessons of the past.  Fifty years ago there was practically no equipment worthy of the name.  A manual was procured, and in 1901 an efficient steamer was bought.  This will still do good service.  The fire station was erected the next year.  Owing to the dependence on horses to haul the steam-engine to fires, the brigade were oft-times placed at great disadvantage for reaching the fires.  As the loss of time had accounted for much damage in very many cases, the Council decided to purchase a motor-tender to haul the steamer.  This was bought within the last few years, and it has proved a useful addition.  The latest acquisition is the Dennis motor-pump, the Council’s jubilee gift to the brigade.

  The successes obtained year by year by the Rushden Volunteer Brigade are a tribute to the efficiency of Chief Officer R. F. Knight and of the enthusiastic Second Officer, Mr. William Packwood, Jun.  The senior active member of the brigade is Mr. Claude Green, who has served for 35 years and has long been responsible for the condition of the engine.  Others with long experience are Firemen J. Whiting, L. Bridgeford, and J. Sparrow.

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