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Object of the Month- November 2016

25 October 2016

2016 marks the 350th anniversary of The Great Fire of London, and as November is associated with Bonfires we asked Visitor Services Volunteer, Maria Child, to choose this month’s Object of the Month around the theme of fire.

Within our collection we have several fire related artefacts including 4 vintage fire engines; we have 3 hand pumps and a steam pump. The hand pumps are from Euston and Ixworth as well as the first ever Stowmarket hand pump originally presented to the town in 1734 by Nathaniel Gordon.

The latest member of this group was transported from Colchester Road fire station in Ipswich just before its scheduled closure in 2011, the Needham Market steam pump now takes pride of place in the Boby building here at the Museum. It was built in 1911 by Shand Mason and Co and served the village from 1912 -1940, it is thought to have been one of the last steam pumps to have been used in anger when it attended an outbreak at Little Finborough, East Suffolk on the 30th July 1940.

Life as a fire fighter was very different during the early 20th century. The pump may have been operated by steam, but it had to be driven to any incident by horses initially and then progressed to being towed by car in later years. The first two people to turn out at a station would be paid an extra premium for lighting the boiler and harnessing the horses, by the time this was done the remaining crew would arrive and off they would set.¬† The main problem in times gone by arises if they attend your house and you have no Fire Insurance plate attached to it, they could just leave your property to burn to the ground! If your location doesn’t have a local pump you could resort to a bucket chain as they did in Bury Street¬† Stowmarket in 1868, the passing of buckets up and down from the river Gipping was nearly a quarter of a mile long!

We hope that everyone has an enjoyable Bonfire Night and you and your pets are all safe. Tickets are currently available for The Museum’s Bonfire Night Celebrations on Saturday 5th November either on line or in person from the Stowmarket Tourist Information. See website for details www.eastanglianlife.org.uk

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