Post-War & Modern-Day Fire Fighting Timeline

Scrapbook of the time prepared by Chris Phillipson covering the 1950s onwards, shows the fire-fighters at Station Echo 79 (now known as Station 85) – Saffron Walden regularly attending events such as the Carnivals and Essex Shows at Audley End Park. The local brigades often took part in local talks and demonstrations.  They had floats at the hospital carnivals and marched in the Remembrance Day parades.  Held annual meetings and many social events, including formal dinners and long service medal ceremonies.


  • Rumsey’s Furniture Shop.  In February, fire broke out at Rumsey’s shop on the corner of King Street and the High Street. The shop was badly damaged and it was estimated that over £100,000 worth of stock had been lost.  However, through the heroic efforts of staff, the shop was open again and re-stocked within a week.
  • Littlebury Tanker crash .  A tanker containing 9 tons of highly explosive propane gas careered info a house and burst into flames. The flames were reportedly 40ft high and 25 firefighters were involved in getting it under control. The road was closed and surrounding properties including the Falcon pub were evacuated. It was believed that heavy rain had softened new tarmac on the road, which led to the tanker overturning.
  • Saffron Walden Steam Laundry, Gold Street – damage estimated at over £50,000 was caused as fire gutted the laundry building. It took 3 brigades less than an hour to get the fire under control, but 12 hours to stop it smouldering, using water from the nearby swimming baths. Fragments of the laundry’s asbestos roof were found afterwards in Bridge Street, and there had been concerns that the fire would spread to a garage close to the laundry.


  • Railway Crash, Great Chesterford – a train loaded with new cars crashed into the back of another train on the main Liverpool Street to Cambridge Line.


  • Rose & Crown Hotel – tragic fire in which 11 lives were lost, which fundamentally changed fire regulations and the town’s historic market place (SEE FOLDER 2).


  • Rose & Crown Hotel – tragic fire in which 11 lives were lost, which fundamentally changed fire regulations and the town’s historic market place.


  • Severals Farm, Arkesden – two tons of potatoes and half a ton of baled straw were destroyed in the fire, but thankfully there was no loss of life.


  • Southern’s Tobacconist and sweet shop in King Street caught fire, but it was caught in time before it spread to any neighbouring buildings.


  • To celebrate the Silver Jubilee, Station 79 firefighters and reporters from the Weekly News climbed onto a decorated fire engine for a celebratory parade. The fire-fighters also created a model fire engine and competed in the soapbox derby event.


  • Saffron Walden Fire Station received a major facelift costing £136,000, as the old ambulance station was pulled down, and a new garage was built to house the two fire engines and an improved smoke chamber was erected.


  • Workmen renovating the old Hospital to create the new district council offices, set fire to the roof, destroying 85% of it, rectifying the damage postponed the council’s move to the new building until 1990.


Firemen Fight Against the Ice

Just days before Christmas, severe ice froze the uniforms of firemen solid as they fought to save the 15th century Clavering Guildhall and the family inside. Crews from Saffron Walden, Stansted, Thaxted and Newport struggled to get water from the nearby hydrant which had frozen. They ended up using water from a neighbouring property’s swimming pool, smashing their way through nearly a foot of ice to get to the water. Sadly the roof of the historic Guildhall collapsed, but thankfully the family escaped unharmed and the fire was stopped from spreading to adjoining properties.


Masonic Hall

A commemorative plaque commemorates the rebuilding of the masonic hall on Church Street after a tragic fire there on the 10th July 1999.

Saffron Hotel

A fire at the Saffron Hotel in 1999 brought back bad memories for many of the 1969 Rose & Crown fire. Fortunately, after 90 minutes the fire was brought under control and contained in the kitchen.

Korean Air 747 Jumbo Jet

Air crash at Stansted airport 12th December 1999


Fires remain a regular aspect of local life, as documented in local print and social media.  Newport News has a regular detailed feature about the Newport Fire Brigade’s activities, which show that these days fire brigades attend a much broader range of incidents particularly complex road traffic accidents as much as they deal with outbreaks of fire.

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