The Etruria fire brigade

The Etruria Inn was used by the Wedgwood factory for social functions such as the half-yearly meetings of the fire brigade. This had been formed in October 1783 after the purchase of the engine made by Samuel Phillips of London. The brigade was a neatly uniformed team of eleven able-bodied men that turned out for practice about four times a year.

Fortunately the fire brigade was seldom required, although they would efficiently tackle fires not only on the works, but also in the village and surrounding neighbourhood. One of the fires it attended during the 1850s was on a Sunday morning at Shelton Farm. John Finney was a witness and recalled that ‘the Hanley brigade also arrived and positioned itself on the opposite side of the house. Rivalry between the two teams was great and the Hanley brigade fired water at the Etruria men. When they thought they had drenched them they drew their engine around the end of the house in line with the Etruria team. The captain of the Etruria team, Stephen Johnson, then said “now my men, at it” and they began to pump. As soon as they had got sufficient force Johnson pointed his hose at Samuel Cole, the captain of the Hanley brigade, the water striking him so fiercely that it lifted him off his engine. Then the fun began and while it lasted the house burnt down’. Presumably under normal circumstances they were more effective and took their role more seriously.

This section is drawn from ‘The History of Etruria’, by Kevin Salt, 2006 (available for purchase from the Wedgwood Museum).


Etruria fire brigade, © Wedgwood Museum

Etruria fire brigade
© Wedgwood Museum