Four man manual fire pump with two leather buckets

Fire PumpUntil recently, this was on loan to Wiltshire Fire Museum. It has now been returned, has undergone conservation treatment and is on display in the Tourist Information Centre. The 4 man manual fire engine, more strictly pump, was probably made by Samuel Phillips of New Surrey Street, Blackfriars, London in the second half of the 18th century; Richard Newsham, a pearl button maker from London made similar engines.

Samuel Phillips started making fire engines in 1760; in 1797 the firm became Phillips and Hopwood.

Josiah Wedgwood of pottery fame ordered in 1781 a one third size engine for his factory. It cost £40 but with extras; buckets, hoses, nozzles and special box the total was £58-17s-3d. Not good enough - Josiah had his name painted on each side; it cost him another 2 shillings.

The fire pump would have been conveyed to the fire by horse and cart, and then dragged as close to the fire as possible. Water would be fetched in buckets from the nearest source by a stream of helpers. The water was poured into the reservoir and 4 men pumping as hard as they could, would force the water up the hose so it could be played on the fire.

Not all houses were protected. If you were insured a plaque was displayed on the front. Subscribers had their fire put out free but had to pay for oiling and greasing the hose afterwards.
Malmesbury Fire Engine Charges - click to enlarge

Samuel Phillips stamp

In 1974 a series of four commemorative stamps featuring fire engines was issued. The 10p stamp featured a Samuel Phillips fire engine.