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The Matlocks UDC Fire Brigade, 1925-30
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Past Matlock & Matlock Bath photographers



The idea of a Volunteer Fire Brigade for Matlock was first suggested in 1882[1] but it was not until 1889 that a fire engine bought by private subscription[2] and John Nuttall, was appointed captain of the Local Board's Fire Brigade[3]. When the Fire Brigade first started the apparatus consisted of an old hand manual, but this was superceded by a horse-drawn steam engine and then the modern motor engine shown above[4]. They were based at the Town Hall for many years[3] and the team was made up of one officer and about eight to ten men in the early years. In 1903 the Fire Brigade's personnel were the Foreman, Sam Platts, and the firemen Herbert Hodgson, R. Taylor, J. Reader, H. Dunn, A Swift, A. Froggatt, W. Allen, R. Smith, Frank White and George Merrington Porter (the coloured links go to their 1901 census entry, where known)[5].

When the newly amalgamated Matlocks Urban District Council decided to purchase a new and up to date motor fire engine in 1925, costing about £1,100, they approached Wirksworth Council to see if they would be prepared to pay a retaining fee of £30[6]. The Matlocks Council agreed to give the old manual fire engine to the committee of St. Andrew's Boys' Home for the lads to use and decided to advertise the steam fire engine the sale which they subsequently sold for £53[7].

In this photograph the Matlocks UDC Fire Brigade were kitted out in macintoshes and sou'westers, with wellingtons protecting their feet. Some of them appear to be standing in water, so it is likely they had been pumping out flooded buildings on one of the occasions when the river had burst its banks[8]. The picture almost certainly includes Mr. Samuel Platts[3], who had been a member of the Brigade from its inception and was captain from 1923 until he retired in 1932[4]. He was probably on of the two men wearing a trilby. During his time as a fire officer he'd attended the Royal Hotel and Glove Factory fires in Matlock Bath.


There are more photographs of the fire brigade in the Vernon Lamb Archive. See the section on Matlock Events.


Photograph taken by [Harry] Gill, Smedley St. W., Matlock. Image supplied by and copyright © Glynn Waite collection.
Researched by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only.

References (coloured links go to on site transcripts):

[1] "Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald", 25 November 1882.
[2] "The Derby Mercury, 11 September 1889.
[3] Kelly's 1891 Directory, Officials (Matlock, Public Establishments) | Kelly's 1908 Directory, Officials (Matlock, Public Establishments) | Kelly's 1916 Directory, Officials (Matlock, Public Establishments) | Kelly's 1925 Directory mentions Sam Platts as the captain and the brigade were still based at Town Hall in 1932.
[4] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 7 November 1938. Funeral of Mr. Samuel Platts, aged 72 of Sycamore Road, Matlock, formerly the captain of Matlock Fire Brigade.
[5] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 17 October 1903. George Merrington Porter, who had been a member of the Fire Brigade since its inception, had died at Matlock Green, aged 54, on Thurs 8 Oct. The men of the Fire Brigade had intended to carry their late comrade's coffin, but "Mr. Joseph Allen of Matlock Bridge, whose hearse was there in connection with Mr Brookhouse's funeral, kindly offered its use".
[6] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 18 August 1925 and 23 June 1925.
[7] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 9 February 1926 (decision) and 16 November 1926 (sale).
[8] They were on hand when the river flooded. For example, the "Derby Daily Telegraph" of 05 September 1931 carried a story about flooding in Matlock when the firemen had put out fires in Matlock gasworks, and the Matlock fire engine was busy pumping away flood water in order to ensure a supply gas to the town.