Colin Grainger

Fascinating new book turns the spotlight on West Ham Fire Brigade

Local history enthusiast, Peter Williams, has written a beautifully illustrated book on West Ham and its fire service.

This book looks at the development of West Ham as part of the wider East London area, and how West Ham’s position influenced the development of its fire brigade, writes Colin Grainger.

From haphazard arrangements under the old parish vestry system in the 1850s, the book tells the story of the development of systematic public services, such as the fire brigade, during the period of rapid industrialisation and development after the coming of the railways in the late 1830s.

Many new industries were located in West Ham including those smelly, offensive and dangerous trades no longer permitted in London proper after the mid 1840s. The area east of the River Lea saw many industrial innovations in petrol, chemicals and early plastics as well as the refining of products in the docks from the trade of the Empire, most notably rubber and sugar.

PW Cover Lite (2) (1)

All this had an impact on the fire brigade, which had to professionalise rapidly to meet all the risks in the borough. West Ham Fire Brigade became known as an innovator in equipment and techniques – and faced its greatest challenge ever in the 1940s with the Blitz on the London docks.

After the period of the National Fire Service in the War, the Brigade returned to West Ham Council control and survived until April 1965 when it became part of the London Fire Brigade.

The book was released a few days ago: Priced: £14.99 + £2.95 UK postage (£17.94). However a discounted price of £12.99 + £2.95 UK postage (£15.94)  will apply to orders received by April 30. Contact Peter at or send cheque to Peter Williams at 71 Lorne Road, London E7 0LL or Paypal to

The book is 140 pages, and contains about 150 black and white and 15 colour photographs. Plenty to interest social and industrial historians and fire engine fans! It will also be at Newham Bookshop from April 9 for just £12.99. 

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This article was written on 02 Apr 2019, and is filed under peter williams, west ham fire brigade.

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