Preserving Fire Heritage in Essex

Essex Fire Museum was officially opened by Fire Minister Angela Smith and retiring Chairman of Essex Fire Authority, Coun Lionel Lee on June 14.

The event was attended by the Chief Fire Officer David Johnson and newly-elected chairman of the Fire Authority, Coun Simon Walsh - on his first official engagement since his election the day before - along with Fire Authority members and principal officers from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. A number of community and heritage organisation representatives will also be present, along with more than 100 retired firefighters.

This historical centre was created by retired firefighter Roger Pickett, who served at Grays for 30 years before his recent retirement. He is now the Museum's assistant curator.


The museum represents a lifelong ambition for Roger, who has a hands-on fascination with his subject which dates back almost to the day his father took him, as a two-year-old toddler, to see the official opening of the new Grays Fire Station in Hogg Lane in November 1954.

Since 1983, Roger has gathered together hundreds of artifacts, photographs, memorabilia and items relating to the County’s Fire Brigade, with a particular interest in the Service within the Thurrock area. The collection also includes five appliances – the first a 1954 Dennis F8 fire engine acquired by Roger in 1993.

Many volunteers have played an active and positive part in the formation of the Essex Fire Museum, like Roger demonstrating an understanding and commitment to the protection of the Essex fire heritage and to create an infrastructure that would protect and develop this collection for future generations.

The Fire Minister said: "I am delighted to have been asked to open the Essex Fire & Rescue Museum and I congratulate all those involved, particularly Roger Pickett, in creating it.

“Not only does it illustrate the challenges and dangers that have always faced our firefighters, it also shows the great contribution that they make to keeping our communities safe.

“The best tribute that we can pay to them is to listen to their advice and not become a statistic or story in a museum ourselves."

Opening arrangements

Currently located in the former auxillary fire service garages at Grays Fire Station, accommodation on the site is understandably limited. This, combined with the fact that Grays is an operational station, will necessitate the need for the museum to open in a limited capacity initially. Interested parties, school groups and individuals will be encouraged to attend by prior booking in the early days.

Funding

Initial funding for the creation of the museum has been provided by Essex Fire Authority.
Future funding is likely to rely heavily on external grant aid, sponsorship and voluntary donations, together with continued support from the Essex Fire Authority and other public bodies.
As with all of its community activities, the museum management team will be actively seeking partners to assist in the growth and development of the project.

The Future

The creation of the Essex Fire Museum has required energy, dedication, true commitment and vision. These same principles will now be applied to its future development.
As the Essex Fire Museum evolves, it is anticipated that through the use of innovative technology, the centre can become an inter-active learning environment and a first-class amenity for the area.