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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


Focus Archive

Record it or lose it... ensuring that Fire Service history is kept

September 2001
Michael Kiernan, Honorary Historian and Archivist, fire Service College, UK

By the end of 2005 it is anticipated that the UK Fire Service College Library will be a registered Keeper of Public Records as defined in the Public Records Act of 1958 and in British Standard 5454:2000. We will also have established, by the same date, a Fire Service National Archive Collection and a Fire Service National Historical Research Facility also at the Fire Service College Library.

Fire Service College

The College is located just outside the North Cotswold town of Moreton in Marsh in the United Kingdom. It is the largest establishment of its kind in the world with something in the order of 5000 residential students per year, from the UK and over 100 countries around the world. The College also hosts conferences, seminars, workshops and other events. The College has a world wide accepted reputation as the leader in all matters concerning both practical Fire Officer training and the much wider aspects of Fire Safety and Fire Engineering. The College Library is one of the largest such facilities in the world, providing a major learning and teaching resource for both staff and students. The Library has gone far beyond just being a collection of books to be borrowed. The Library also responds to requests for information from around the world.

The History Project

Basically the History Project as it is known, is in fact four Projects that are running concurrently. Details as follows:

Project One
To record a working history of the Fire Service National Colleges. That is Saltdean, Dorking and Moreton in Marsh, also as is relevant Washington Hall in Lancashire, Wray Park in Surrey, Watford and the Scottish Training School.

Project Two
To record a working history of the National Fire Service Overseas Contingent.

Project Three
To record a working history of the Fire Services of the UK (including the National Fire Service) from 1938 to the current date.

Project Four
To have the Fire Service College registered as a Keeper of Public Records as detailed in the Public Records Act 1958. To establish a Fire Service National Archive Collection and Fire Service National Research Facility at the Fire Service College.

Way forward

The first step is the cataloguing, recording, dating, history recording and cross referencing of all items both on display around the Fire Service College and hanging on the walls of the College.

Some items are of major historical significance and not a little monetary significance either. Items include the Bramah manual pump in the College Reception Area is a very good example of a none too common type of Manual Fire Pump. The wooden sculpture in the Mess Concourse display cabinet is not without an interesting history.

A second area that must be looked into is the recording of the historical information and significance with regard to the table silver both on loan to and owned by the Fire Service College Mess Club. A large proportion of the College Mess Silver is of historical significance and interest. The College Mess Club does have a full inventory, including photographs, the insurance company likes it that way.

Oral history recording

Under this work contact is being made with as many past members of the Fire Service as possible. Twenty-two recorded talks have taken place, with further recordings booked for later in the year. The recordings are being made on audiotape and then transferred to mini compact disc. Example such as the recorded memories of a gentleman who joined the Fire Service during the First World War and retired in the mid 1950s; memories of workers in the Fire Service in the London bombing. All the recordings will form a part of the Archive Collection and the Research Facility.

The Moreton Collection

It must be remembered that when the collection is up and running it will be far more comprehensive than the current collect at PRO Kew. PRO only has the collection of Public Records, over thirty years old. The Moreton collection will cover any aspect of historical interest whatever, regardless of being a public record or not.

There are also other resources in this area such as the Royal Academy of Arts, research at the Public Records Office both London and Edinburgh, the Home Office Library, the British Library, the Imperial War Museum, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission etc, etc.

Data recording

The Public Records Act of 1958 states that a Registered Collection of Public Records must have a catalogue that is available to the public. It has now been established that the Internet for fills this legal requirement. Over many years books, documents and photographs, which are of days gone by, have been donated to the Library at the Fire Service College

Web site

By the end of 2005 The Fire Service College Library will be a Registered Keeper of Public Records and all the relevant documents held at PRO Kew will have been transferred to Moreton. The College Library will have established a dedicated Fire Service National Archive Collection and a fire Service National Historical Research Facility. The College Library Database, which by 2005 will be three and a half years old, will have a full catalogue of all items held in the Archive Collection. The collection catalogue will also be available on the Internet via the College Web Site and a dedicated Archive Collection Site. The Catalogue will be interactive, it will be possible to enter a subject area and gain access to items that are possibly relevant. For example, if a researcher types in Fire Force 10 a list will come appear with all items held, which will include public records, photographs, press cuttings, oral history tapes, books and anything else. Every record, photograph, press cutting, tape etc will then have a short explanation and a reference number.


The co-operation of persons outside the Fire Service is needed so that any items which will enhance the collection should be brought together at Moreton. To this end it is hoped that if anyone has items of interest that they should be donated to the Fire Service College collection.

Michael Kiernan
Fire Service College, London Road, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire
Tel: +44 (0)1608 652 461
Fax: +44 (0)1608 652 328

A Full Paper on this topic was given at the "e-Fire Information World: seeing the future", Thursday, 14 June 2001, Imperial Hotel, Russell Square, London, UK. Contact Sheila Pantry for details. E-mail: