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A fire crew signing off in real style
Oxford Volunteer Fire Brigade went out of existence in style.
A dinner was held at the Forum Restaurant in High Street on April 1, 1948 to mark the end of its 78 years of service.
On that date, it was replaced by a professional brigade under the control of the local authority, Oxford City Council.
A menu card for the dinner has been kept by Annette Moore, of Chalgrove, whose father, Cyril ‘Jim’ Bushnell, was a member of the brigade. It was signed by many of those present.
Guests enjoyed cream of tomato soup, roast turkey with all the trimmings and peach melba, and were entertained by comedian Alan Course, singer George Walker and pianist Sidney Mills.
Tributes were paid to the brigade and its staff for long and loyal service to the city.
But Alderman RT Alden, chairman of the city council’s watch committee, thought the city’s appreciation should be in a more tangible form.
He suggested that a plaque should be placed in the fire station in George Street to commemorate the brigade, which had been formed in 1870.
The brigade president, Alfred Griffiths, presented the mayor, Councillor JW Heading, with a deed, conveying to the city the brigade’s equipment and appliances.
He said the brigade had served the city and university faithfully and efficiently for 78 years.
Alderman Round had been chiefly responsible for its formation, following a serious fire in St Aldate’s, in which lives were lost. A public appeal was launched and the generous response enabled the brigade to buy a manual fire engine.
Mr Griffiths said the brigade had no boundaries – it served Oxford, Oxford University, Oxfordshire and parts of Berkshire – and throughout its long history, it had been supported mainly by voluntary contributions.
The first fire station had been in New Inn Hall Street, an ordinary house adapted for the brigade, with one permanent fireman and a call boy. The first steam engine was bought in 1879.
Later, the brigade moved to George Street and eventually the station was extended by taking over the old Corn Exchange.
The brigade had had just five presidents, Alderman Downing, Horace Fisher, Frank Gray, Fred Ballard and himself.
The mayor, Mr Heading, told guests that they were commemorating the passing of a valuable and time honoured voluntary institution.
He said: “The brigade has played a wonderful part in the life of the community.
“The fire service has now passed into the control of the local authority and whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing, time alone will tell.”