The Old Fire Station, Bridewell, Bristol

BaRAS undertook a survey of the Old Fire Station, Bristol, before its redevelopment for a youth centre. Bridewell Fire station was designed in 1924 and opened in 1930. Designed by Ivor Jones and Percy Thomas, it formed part of a single development which included the former Police Headquarters and Central Police Station.

Fire appliances, control room and vehicle workshops were situated on the ground floor, with offices, mess and other rooms on the floor above. In the early 20th century, fire officers worked on a continuous-duty system and were therefore expected to live at the Fire Station. To this end it was built with nine 2-4 bedroom flats situated on the floors above the station. The Superintendent and Inspectors occupied the larger flats; the remainder were for married Sergeants.

The flats were heated with open fires and natural light was provided through single-glazed steel-framed windows. Their front doors opened onto an external balcony which provided access to three enclosed shafts containing sliding poles, allowing rapid access to the appliance rooms below. The Superintendent’s quarters was fitted with a sliding pole inside the flat. Due to the fact that families were housed in the flats, all the doors to these shafts were fitted with catches at the top, designed to prevent child-related accidents.

In 1940 the German Luftwaffe dropped large quantities of high explosive bombs and incendiary devices on Bristol and Bridewell Fire Station was at the heart of the battle to control the huge fires that raged across the city. The Station Building itself survived the War relatively unscathed.

the old fire station at bridewell bristol

The Old Fire Station, Bridewell, Bristol

Although the Fire Station was built to house the most up-to-date fire-fighting equipment, rapid technological change meant that within 20 years it was already becoming obsolete, unable to accommodate the larger appliances in use after the War. This, and the shortage of parking and training space, and a desire to avoid housing fire officers in fire stations, led to Bridewell Station’s closure after only 43 years of use. Since 1973 the building has had various uses with alterations most apparent on the first floor where it is now difficult to determine the exact function of the rooms. The basic structure of the building remains intact and is an excellent example of a large purpose-built inter-war fire station.

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