The Museum of London has restored its 17th-century fire engine in preparation for its
Fire! Fire!, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London.
Originally built in London in the late 1670s by John Keeling, theonly surviving partwhen the museum acquired the fire engine in 1928was the central barrel and pump.The
restoration was modelled on a 19th-century photograph of the engine
(pictured left) which showed it still intact with its undercarriage,
wheels, tow bar and pumping arms.
museum worked with a team of long-established coachbuilders, Croford
Coachbuilders in Kent, to reconstruct the fire engine as authentically
as possible using traditional techniques and materials. The wheels,
for example, were made out of elm for the hub, oak for the spokes and
ash for the felloes, and sealed with an iron tyre.
a period of three months, the various parts were carefully crafted and
assembled to fit exactly to the millimetre around the original barrel
pump, but also made to easily stand out from the central piece.This
restoration was made possible by the generous support of the Radcliffe
Trust, the Worshipful Company of Coopers, the Worshipful Company of
Grocers, and the Worshipful Company of Joiners and Ceilers
Curator for the Fire! Fire!
exhibition, Meriel Jeater, said: “This fantastic reconstruction has
revealed some incredible insight into how our fire engine would have
worked. We now know that, with fixed wheels
and a weight of over 500kg even without water, it would have been
extremely difficult to manoeuvre around London’s narrow, cobbled
streets. Also, the relatively crude pump mechanism was only able to
squirt out about six pints of water over a rather short distance,
so it would have been perilously close to the flames to have had any
chance of putting them out. It was really hard for our visitors to
imagine this object as a working fire engine when it was just a barrel
and pump, so we’re really excited to unveil it in
all its glory when we open our exhibition next month.”
Visitors to theMuseum
of London’s Fire! Fire! exhibition will be able to find the fire engine
in the section which examines how fire-fighting techniques developed
after the Great Fire. To see a video of the fire engine restoration,
please follow thislinkto our YouTube channel.
Fire! Fire!runs from 23 July 2016 to 17 April 2017 and will focus on life on the
eve of the fire, the dramatic events that took place as the blaze burned
through a quarter of the city in 1666, and how London recovered from
the devastation. Tickets priced from £8 for adults and £4 for children
online, family tickets are available.