The Leigh Volunteer Fire Brigade

See also Leigh Volunteer Fire Brigade 1882-1948

The Leigh Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in 1882. Lawrence Biddle’s heirs presented the Historical Society with copies of 15 Subscribers Annual Reports (for the years 1889, 1900, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1909, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918). The following notes have been compiled from these documents. Additional stories about the Brigade appear in We Had Everything p.126-130.


In succeeding years – above – individual subscribers numbered 17, 12, 23, 15, 28 (£81 including 2 insurance companies, two local firms ‘Dukes’ and ‘Curtis & Harvey’ – and the Hildenborough Village Players!) 23, 29, 25, 21, 22, 22, 22, 22, 21 and 21 respectively.


The amounts of income ranged from around £25 to £50 and occasional ‘large’ amounts of £50 – £75 when, for example, an insurance company paid out £10 or £15. The principal subscribers were the local nobility or middle classes – mainly one suspects to help the community but partly to safeguard their houses (or stately homes or business). Subscribers had to pay a minimum amount to receive a free service. The Brigade did not usually guarantee to help outside the parish unless there was a subscription of a minimum of 10 shillings (although quite often a guinea was given) and the Brigade did go to a number of fires in other villages over the 20 years of these Annual Reports.

 1889 The first year for which Annual Reports are held
 1900 ‘Although the Brigade has, fortunately, not received any calls to attend fires, yet individual members have given timely and useful assistance, which prevented what might have developed in large fires. Drill Instructor Baldwin extinguished a chimney which was on fire in “The Square”… It must also be recorded that when Mr R Burfield was, unfortunately most seriously burnt, Firemen Weight and Hobbs were soon on the spot and not only extinguished the flames but having both passed the Ambulance Examination, also dressed the wounds most satisfactorily … ‘
 1903 ‘Many new subscribers … three fires in the year … a haystack was struck by lightning and the Brigade … were successful in saving the greater part of the hay in good condition. A fire occurred at Larkin’s Farm, Chiddingstone and the Brigade remained all night and did excellent work …’ The third fire broke out at Mr Cook’s Farm (WHERE WAS THIS?) and, ‘had it not been for the efforts of the Firemen, the house and buildings must have been destroyed’
1904 ‘The year has been an uneventful one, the Brigade not having been called to any fire … ‘
1905 Only one fire – Price’s Farm ‘doing excellent work …’
1906 No calls.
1907 One fire – at Hildenborough Station where the Brigade ‘were able to do good service …’ ‘The Committee has at its disposal two Manual Fire Engines and 1,300 feet of Hose – also Standpipes for Hydrants in Leigh, Penshurst and District’. The scale of charges is given:
Use of Engine to Non-Subscriber £5/5/0
When called to a Fire, but not required £2/2/0
Use of Engine to Subscriber nil Services of Brigade excluding Horses Refreshment and extra labour { £2/2/0 first hour { 10/- succeeding hours Pumpers – each man { 1/- first hour { 6d succeeding hours Horses – per horse £1/1/0 As usual Mr & Mrs Hope Morley paid for an outing (to Margate this year).
The Brigade held ‘many useful and practical drills’ as well as inspecting and maintaining the equipment. They also offered to visit any Subscriber’s residence during the summer months to test water supply, etc”. They attend Church Parades and they sent 10s to NFB Union Widows and Orphans Fund
1909 The only formal call out was for “a Stack Fire at Beckett’s Farm, Chiddingstone”, where they “were able to do good service”. They were also able to purchase 500 feet of new Canvas hose for £23/4/0 with the help of a loan from Mr S. Hope Morley – who again paid for the annual outing (to Hastings). They also bought a new gas-lit FireCall lamp (which was outside The Square) and, seeming for the first time, took out insurance. In July they entered the NFBU (National Fire Brigade Union’s) Competition at Tonbridge.
1912 Mr Joey Randerson (who lived in the old stables to the vicarage, now known as Inglenook, until the 1960s) succeeded Mr K Anderson, the Post Master, as Secretary and Treasurer. Mr Randerson had also been the chief officer since 1909. There were no fires to attend in this year but the ‘Annual Outing’ to Brighton did take place as usual. Subscribers were reminded that they could call for the Fire Brigade not only in The Square at Leigh but at the Penshurst Station Inn (i.e. the Little Brown Jug today). Subscribers included not only the two local Lords (Lord de l’Isle and Dudley and the newly ennobled Lord Hollenden) but titled ladies, including Lady Harriet Warde.
1913 The scale of charges was roughly similar to previous years but a new addition is a charge of 1/6d for a ‘Call Boy’ … The Brigade attended two fires – one at Larkin’s Farm (again) – for which the farmer was charged the large sum of £36/16/0d; and one at an unspecified location on Leigh Green ‘good work being done’. Mr W L Martin was paid a retaining fee of 2 guineas ‘for horses’ and there was an expenditure of £1 for competing in a competition at Edenbridge. (The Outing went back to Hastings, costing Lord Hollenden the normal £5. Gas supply for the Fire Call light cost 12/-.
1914 Mr T H Richards had taken over a Chief Officer and Secretary/Treasurer. ‘The Brigade has not been called to any Fires in the District’ he reported but ‘Firemen had worked hard to qualify for competitions … and to make themselves efficient in First Aid Work’.
1915 No noticeable changes in personnel; no fires; and no Outing – perhaps because it was war time.
1916 For the first time the Annual Report is headed the Lyghe Fire Brigade and this continues for the next two years. Again an uneventful year with only one small fire at an unnamed place; and again no annual outing! However the Brigade did attend ‘a fine display of coping with fires and life saving in London … which proved not only interesting but instructive’. On the expenditure side there was yet again the purchase of more hoses but also a full dress uniform! (plus watch repairs at 6/6d and retaining fee for horses – plural – of 2 guineas).
1917 The Annual Report emphasized the need for economy during the War years but also emphasized the efficiency of the service was not suffering. However, it seems no fires were actually attended and the Annual Outing, paid for by Lord Hollenden as usual and to Hastings, as so often – was the major event. The Brigade did buy a New Chemical Extinguisher (for £2/5/0), the first time such modern equipment has been mentioned. There is no expenditure for horses.
1918 The last year for which the Historical Society has an Annual Report. No reports of any fires but the Annual Outing was reinstated, once again to Hastings – and the usual ‘well attended drills’.

In none of the Annual Reports is there a list of the actual firemen – only the supervisors and honorary people. In 1918 it reads:

*Lord Hollenden – President
*Dr Fraser, *Mr A Sales, *Mr G Boby,}
Mr J Randerson and Mr H Russell } Vice Presidents
Mr T H Richards – Secretary, Treasurer and Chief Officer
*Mr H Faircoth – Second Officer
*Mr W Baldwin – Engineer
Committee of the last three above plus Mr J Burr, Mr W Goodwin, Mr H Maskell, Mr Friend and *Mr Stubbins (No initials were given to the last two. Might this mean they were “workers” as opposed to gentlemen?)

The members did not change all that much. The underlined names were on the 1909 list 10 years earlier; six (*) were on the 1900 list; and seven (S Hope Morley; Dr Fraser; Mr Boby; Mr Sales; Mr Faircloth; Mr Baldwin; and Mr Stubbins) from 1889, twenty years earlier.

Parish Magazine Articles: July/Aug 2003: by Chris Rowley


Leigh Fire Brigade photographed outside Hall Place, 1926.
Leigh Fire Brigade photographed outside Hall Place, 1926.

Note: According to Jennie James, A. Humphrey is probably Albert Frank Humphrey – known as Frank – son of Albert Charles Humphrey.  This information comes from Jennie James, grand-daughter of Albert Charles Humphrey and daughter of Robert George Humphrey  (info. dated 20.8.16)
However, also having been contacted by Gillian Wilson, granddaughter of Albert Charles Humphrey, she disputes the photo being of Albert Frank.  However, Chris Rowley’s book “We Had Everything …” – under the section on Dick Wood, clearly states that after WW1 Bert Humphrey (i.e. Albert Charles Humphrey) was a member of the Leigh Fire Brigade.


Fire Brigade 1926
Leigh Fire Brigade 1926 – photograph sent by Jennie James, descendant of Albert Charles Humphrey.










Fire brigade reverse
Reverse of above photograph of 1926 Leigh Fire Brigade – showing awards at National Tournament. The two names opposite are Mrs Passmore – (Dorothy Mabel Humphrey) and E. Humphrey (probably Eric Humphrey)











Leigh Fire Brigade, circa 1947 Back Row (L to R): Fred Holden, Arthur Hall, Charlie Ingram, Fred Faulty Front Row (L to R): Bert Stubbins, Bill Fairclough, Lil Pankhurst, Bernard Pankhurst, Bill Sellings
Leigh Fire Brigade, circa 1947
Back Row (L to R): Fred Holden, Arthur Hall, Charlie Ingram, Fred Faulty
Front Row (L to R): Bert Stubbins, Bill Fairclough, Lil Pankhurst, Bernard Pankhurst, Bill Sellings


The following two small photographs have been given to the Society by Maurice Martin, whose father-in-law was Fred Faircloth (Head Fireman).  Fred can be seen in the 1926 photograph above as can Fred Fautly who drove the fire engine.   In the first photo – with the shield – Hubert Russell (who lived at South View) is at the top left, but we do not have the names of the other firemen although they are probably in the the 1926 photo.   The second photo (with the car) the car was probably Hubert Russell’s and it has a fire pump being towed behind it.  Fred Faircloth is in the passenger seat.  The photo is taken on the Ensfield Road to Tonbridge at the bottom of the concrete road up to Killicks Bank.

Leigh Fire Brigade - photos given to the Society by Maurice Martin
Leigh Fire Brigade – photos given to the Society by Maurice Martin


Leigh Fire Brigade pulling the coffin of Harry ‘Potty’ Faircloth who died January 1929 aged 73











(Updated November 2017 by Joyce Field)