The first record of a Fire Engine at Watton that I have been able to find is of "A new improved carriage Fire Engine for 16 men". This was bought in 1845 by the efforts of the Threxton and Watton Fire Engine Subscription Fund as will be seen by the above copy of the original receipt. A Wayland Fire Brigade was formed in August 1890 and consisted of a Captain and 11 men and at this time Fire Station was at the Wayland Hall and the garage where the engine was housed is now the I Care Centre for the Elderly.
I can picture this old appliance now, which was worked by up to eight men pressing a long wooden handle up and down on either side of the machine. In fact, I helped to operate it on a few occasions when there was a fire during the day as when the firemen, who were on a part time retail basis, were at work anyone who happened to be about at the time lent a hand.
The main difficulty about the whole operation was getting the pump to the scene of the fire as it \ hauled by a pair of heavy horses loaned for the occasion by one or another of the few firms who owned such animals at that time. Should a fire occur during working hours there was the problem of locating the nearest pair of horses and if it happened during off-work periods it could take e^ longer to get the pump under way. During the summer evenings this always presented a real problem as the horses would be grazing in a meadow and they soon learned that the sound of the fire I meant extra work for them and they proved rather difficult to catch. Many a tale was told concern this old fire engine- One of them being that a certain publican who supplied the fire brigade v\ much needed refreshments during their arduous task, was often at the scene of the fire with the refreshments before the firemen arrived with the pump.
The old Merry weather Steam Fire Engine was sold in 1937 and is here awaiting to be loaded onto a railway truck at Watton Station. Back row left to right: - R. Wyer, R. Taylor, D. Moore, and J. Stokes. G. Goldsmith. Front row: G. Peachment, W. Turner, B. Wyer and F. Hoy.
Another story relates to a city gentleman who had come to live in the town to regain his health. Seeing a pair of horses approaching him hauling the pump up the high street he doffed his hat, thinking it was a funeral cortege, whereupon a local called out to him, "Put yar hat on bor, that in't no funeral, thass our ole fire injin go'in tu a fire". The gent replied, "In London our engines would be the fire in two or three minutes". Not to be outwitted the countryman answered, "Yes bor, I know about that, cores yar injin was pulled by an ole motor, but yu see, ours is pulled by tu ole hosses a them ole davels taake sum catch-un, as when tha' ole fire bell go they git rite acrost yun side tha'midder".