The Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum is no more. Having closed in March 2020 to facilitate redevelopment, a new identity has emerged. From 14th August the public will be welcomed to Fireground, a museum four times the size of its predecessor.
Based in Rochdale’s art deco inspired former fire station, the new museum will, despite its spacious new surroundings, still be led entirely by a dedicated band of volunteers, many of whom are themselves former firefighters.
The site’s collection features twenty fire engines, dating back as far as 1741, along with a broad range of uniforms, equipment, medals, paintings and models, all of which chart the history of firefighting between the Great Fire of London in 1666 through to the present day.
New interactive displays have also been installed to engage all ages of visitors, in conjunction with a purpose-built education suite and research facility.
The term Fireground has been used in the fire service since World War II and refers to the scene of operations at an emergency incident, similar to battleground in the armed forces.
While the museum explores the full breadth of firefighting’s history, being situated in Rochdale is no coincidence. “Greater Manchester’s fire engineering companies once supplied the rest of the world,” explains Fireground’s curator and retired fire officer, Bob Bonner.
“The new museum tells the proud story of the men and women who have served Greater Manchester since the 1700s; the significant incidents they attended, the equipment they used and the sacrifices they made.”
Another feature of the redeveloped site is a recreated Victorian street, complete with houses, shops, police station and, of course, a fire station. This historic representation contains an original ‘appliance room’, with six full-size fire engines lined up.
“Pump Street and its Blitz equivalent, Cranberry Street, allow us to display historic items such as fire alarms, signs and hydrants in their natural setting,” Bonner continues. “Visitors can completely immerse themselves in the period displays.”
The development of Fireground was facilitated by £1.8 million support from National Lottery Heritage Fund and conducted in partnership with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, Rochdale Borough Council and Rochdale Development Agency.