The old fire station is in the corner of the church grounds. It’s now empty but at one time would have housed the village fire engine. Until the early 20th century quite a number of buildings in the village were thatched and fires were an ever present danger, especially as most had open fires.
The first fire insurance company was formed in 1667, just one year after the Great Fire of London, and the first fire brigades soon after. The early insurers soon realised they needed to protect their own interests and so began to provide men and fire appliances to deal with outbreaks of fire. For over 100 years, insurance company fire brigades provided the main fire fighting force in Britain. Each insured building had a fire mark attached to the outside, a metal plate made out of lead or copper displaying the company’s trademark and the householder’s policy number. The disadvantage of this system was that if your house was not insured there was no guarantee that the brigade would attempt to put the fire out.
The Sun Fire Office was founded in London in April 1710 and is now the oldest existing insurance company in the world. Records from The National Archives list the following people as having insurance with the Sun Fire Office:
- Daniel Swift, Northam, Grazier (1790)
- Abraham Cunnington, Miller and Farmer(1792)
In 1707 it was made obligatory on the church wardens to take over the responsibility for fire protection. This local protection generally worked alongside the insurance company fire brigades. This arrangement lasted until Local Government Act of 1894 when Parish Council’s took over responsibility for fire fighting.
On the 1st of August 1908 the Peterborough Standard reported that the Parish Council had been considering buying a new fire engine but had decided to stay with the existing one.
The engine being discussed had been supplied from Merryweather & Sons in 1826. It was a third size engine, mounted on spoke wheels fitted with metallic pistons and valves, it was painted green and vermilion and included a copper branch pipe. Also supplied at the time of delivery were 40ft and 20ft of leather hoses. Written on the side of the fire engine in yellow with a shadow effect was “The Parish of Eye. Daniel Swift and William Little, Churchwardens, 1826“. Total cost was £88.
To pump water one end of the hose would have been put in a nearby well or stream and the other end connected to the engine. Water would have passed through the manually operated pump and flowed out through the the hose held by the fireman and onto the fire.
By 1892 the engine must of been showing its age. It was reported at the Greyhound fire of January 1892,“The local engine, an antiquated piece of mechanism, which had not been put in use for a long time, was found to be of little use, as is usually the case when wanted, in fact, quite INCAPABLE OF SAVING THE BUILDING”.
The need for parishes and insurance companies to provided fire fighting equipment ended with the 1938 Fire Brigade Act which placed responsibility for the provision of a fire brigade onto the local authority.
Eye Fire Station was brought back into use for one last time during the second world war from 1939-1945.
By 2011 the arch over the front door had begun to collapse and had become unsafe. The Parish Council decided to provide funding for restoration, in 2012 new doors and roof were fitted, the arch was rebuilt and the crowning achievement a new sign was added above the door.