Men of Bad Character by Janet Gyford
Chelmsford Chronicle, 12 December 1828.
ERO D/P 30/8/2, vestry minutes, minute for 22 October 1829.
M L Smith (Fires in Witham, privately published, Witham, 1975) shows that a similar arrangement had operated with the old engine, which had been donated by the Royal Exchange Insurance Office, but was housed in a building provided by the vestry in 1806 on Gallows Croft, which was at the east end of Newland Street, near where the Roman Catholic Church stood until recently, opposite what are now Grove Cottages. ERO D/DBw M39, entry for 2 November 1807, indicated the location, and also shows that the building was built on waste, i.e. in the roadway, and only measured 14 ft by 15 ft.
The new engine of 1828 was still a manual one; the first steam fire engine in Britain was constructed in 1829 but they did not come into use in this country until the 1860s (A Ingram, A History of Fire-Fighting and Equipment, New English Library. London, 1978).
The building provided in 1829 was probably near the old one, but adjoining rather than opposite Grove Cottages (deduced from the description of enumeration district 1b in Census returns, 1951, and of district 11 in the districts of the Witham Congregational Christian Instruction Society in 1848, quoted in M L Smith, A Brief History of Witham Congregational Church, privately published, Witham, 1965).
Yet another house was provided between 1850 and 1859 at the junction of Guithavon Street and Mill Lane, where it still stands, though no longer used for that purpose. E Cresy (Report to the Board of Health on a preliminary inquiry into the sewerage, drainage, and supply of water, and the sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the parish of Witham, HMSO, London, 1850) gives the engine house still near Grove Cottages. ERO Sale Catalogue B5221 shows it in Guithavon Street in 1859, confirmed by O.S. Map 1/2,500, Essex XLV.1 (1875).
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