Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Ryde’s New Fire Engine 1908

Testing Ryde's New Fire Engine "Gem"


The new steam fire engine purchased by the Corporation was formally christened on Thursday afternoon 8th October 1908, the ceremony being followed by a short display in St. Thomas’ Square which was watched with much interest by a large number of people.  Drawn by four horses the engine dashed into the Square in fine style.  The horses having been removed a number of lengths of hose were quickly attached and the canvas dam to hold the water supply was erected close to the hydrant outside the Theatre.  A bottle of champagne decorated with ribbon was suspended from the engine and this was broken against the metal by Miss Mears, who christened the engine the “Gem.”

Councillor A. Teague, Chairman of the Fire Brigade ignited the fire which was soon blazing up under forced draught, the rapidity with which the steam was generated being shown by the pressure gauge which quickly registered 120lbs.  A large nozzle having been attached to one of the lengths of hose, the Mayor, Ald. G. E. Mears, started the engine and very soon a powerful jet of water was thrown to a height of about 150 feet.  Various nozzles were affixed and the power of the engine shown in two, three and four jets.

The test, which was carried out under the direction of Chief Officer S. C. Sapsworth and Mr. H. R. Hopper, who represented the makers, was highly satisfactory.

The new steam fire engine was one of Messrs. Merryweathers’ latest design horse-drawn steamers, known as the “Greenwich Gem” pattern, which had met with remarkable success since its introduction.  Briefly, one of its important features was the position of the machinery in rear of the engine with the working fire door also in rear, so that the engineer had at all times whatever was required for his driving within reach and sight, from his position at the back, besides which practical stoking of the fire could be carried out whilst travelling.  The latter was an important advantage, especially in country districts where long distances may frequently have to be traversed in reaching the fire.

The machinery itself was what was known in the fire engine trade as the “double vertical” type, consisting of two steam cylinders inverted over two double-acting pumps, firmly connected by turned steel columns.  Capacious copper air vessels and all modern fittings were provided, and the boiler was of the Merryweather design with curved and inclined water tubes.  Finished off with the usual tint of vermillion, picked out in gold and colours, with the metal work polished bright where possible, the engine presented a very handsome appearance.  The engine had a capacity of 300 gallons per minute.

After seeing their charge safely housed the brigade adjourned to the Large Town Hall, where at the invitation of Councillor Teague and Captain Sapsworth they joined the Mayor and Councillors in a pleasant meal.

Sources: IW Observer
Image: Roy Brinton Collection
Article: Ann Barrett