On Sunday September 30th 1892 a serious fire broke out at the Peter Boat Inn in Leigh-on-Sea at 11pm when Mrs Morgan the wife of the Innkeeper accidently dropped an oil lamp in the parlour. A number of local fishermen rushed to help and set up a chain of buckets to collect sea water in an attempt to quell blaze. However the tide was out and despite their best efforts the fire spread. Southend had just received a new steam fire engine the Alert.
At 11.30pm Mr Arthur Brewer mounted a horse, and rode bare-back as fast as he could to Southend to summon the engine. Mr Brewer returned and reported that the Fire Engine would be on its way as soon as a team of horses was hitched to pull the engine. Mr Brewer added also that he had been stopped by a Police constable enquiring what all the rush was about. The engine arrived at 30 minutes after midnight and was taken down to the Strand, where it became stuck in the mud. With much help and planks laid, the engine was dragged out and set to work. In the meantime the creek had to be dammed to provide water.
However the Peter Boat Inn and the neighbouring Red House were completely destroyed. Another adjacent house was severely damaged. The Fire Brigade departed at 6.15am on the Monday morning. The men returned to base with a plum pudding as a souvenir taken from the inn. It was not uncommon in those days for residents to supply the firefighters with refreshments or even a slap up supper afterwards.
It was only four days earlier on September 26th 1892 that Southend Fire Brigade took delivery of its new horse drawn steam powered fire engine, the Alert. The machine was a no. 1 size ‘Double Vertical’ pattern and built by Messrs, Shand, Mason and Company, of Blackfriars Road, London. Most of its cost, £300.00 was raised by public subscription.
On September 26th, a public presentation in front of the Ship Hotel was attended by Mr J. H. Burrows (Chairman of the local board) and the Mayor Thomas Dowsett and Mrs Dowsett and many local dignitaries. Mrs Dowsett cracked a bottle of wine on the machine and said ‘I have great pleasure in naming this fire engine Alert. Onlookers cheered wildly and a volunteer brass band struck up which unfortunately drowned out the the speakers who followed.
©Essex Hundred Publications