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Unsung Heroes: Eastbourne's Fire Service 1824 - 1974

For a hundred and fifty years, Eastbourne operated its fire service. From the early days of hand pumps through to horse-drawn steam fire appliance to motor-driven engines. The service kept up to date with the development of fire fighting techniques. Firemen were volunteers, made up of local tradespeople and shopkeepers.

The brigade arranged collections through the town for funds to support the service. And they paid the men a small allowance for attending fires and fire drills. With the forming of the Borough of Eastbourne, they retained some men on a salary. But still had volunteers helping in the fight against fire. Later they introduced a more professional service, with full-time firemen and new fire stations positioned throughout the town.

With the coming of the railway in 1849, the town expanded and became a popular tourist location with numerous large hotels and many visitors throughout the season. The fire service kept up with the latest firefighting equipment. The officers in charge made it a priority to attend national and foreign fire brigade gatherings. Also, where possible, they attended brigade competitions. There were always good working relationships with other brigades around the county, and they arranged frequent competitive events for the fire crews.

This book tells the story of the Eastbourne Fire Brigade and information on major fires they attended. There are details about fire personnel bravery and the officers who commanded them. I devote a section in the book to the brigade’s fire appliances showing the progress from the early machines to the large water tenders and turntable ladders of later years. Whilst under local administration, there were many changes in the local fire service. From a group of volunteer firefighters under Vestry control to full time, well-trained and educated professional men and women with the latest firefighting equipment.

1974 saw the amalgamation of the Eastbourne Fire Brigade into the East Sussex Fire Service. This ended the borough's control and development of the town’s fire service.

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