Recently, I popped into the wonderful Clerkenwell Tales, an independent bookshop on Exmouth Market, to buy a couple of birthday presents. Whilst in there, I noticed they had a petition on the counter to stop the closure of Clerkenwell Fire Station. I was shocked - I hadn't known it was under threat! - and didn't hesitate to sign.
|The 1950s/1960s drill tower alongside the Edwardian station|
To think that it might be closed down is an awful prospect. Naturally, not just for the building but for the public good! It's not because the fire station is redundant or in excess of need, but rather due to a plan to cut the London Fire Brigade's funding by £45 million. To deal with this blow, it is proposed to close down 12 fire stations, including dear Clerkenwell... If I may, I'll tell you a little bit about this special building.
|The original fire station (Image source: Survey of London, British History Online)|
However, the 1870s station didn't provide enough space for all the firemen as the complement grew and so some had to be accommodated in nearby housing. This wasn't an ideal situation so, in 1895-97, an extension was erected, facing onto Rosebery Avenue. In addition to more accommodation, this incorporated a new 'appliance room' (i.e. where the fire engines are housed). From the new appliance room, the fire engines could exit more safely onto the less busy Rosebery Avenue, rather than Farringdon Road.
|The 1890s extension (Image source: Survey of London, British History Online)|
However, even with the extension, it became apparent that an even larger fire station was necessary. Hence, between 1912 and 1917, in two phases, the fire station was extended again and the 1890s section rebuilt, with the old and new parts given a unified facade. The design for the 1912-17 works was by H. F. T Cooper, a young London County Council architect. The building is consistent with many early twentieth-century London fire stations in its loose Arts and Crafts style, particularly evident in the impressive gabled roof with its tall chimney stacks.
If this post has made you fall in love with Clerkenwell Fire Station, even just a little bit, you can read more from the BBC here and here, and find out about the related public consultation here.