Housed in the left-hand archway of the Market Hall (now the Everyman Cinema), with the illuminated sign (1st small inset picture above) was the old Marlow Fire Station.  

The voluntary crew, who all worked nearby, were summoned by pulling a rope up to the bell over the clock (2nd inset). I have a picture of the Market Hall where the end of the rope can be seen, just out of the reach of mischievous youngsters, and a sign alongside reading: 'In case of fire ring the bell for a minimum of five minutes'. 

Some pictures date from the time before the purchase of the first motorised fire tender, 'Vera', which will be featured in a future column. The two horses which pulled the tender were kept in stables at the Crown Hotel and during daytime in Crown Meadow to the rear.  

There is a famous story of a wintry morning when a cottage in Hatchetts Row, off Dean Street, caught fire; the bell was rung and the crew quickly assembled. However, the horses were especially frisky, possibly because of the frosty conditions, and took an eternity to round up and get between the shafts. By the time the tender eventually reached Hatchetts Row the cottage was almost burnt out. I don’t know the date of this incident but probably it was not long before the arrival of 'Vera' and may have hastened her purchase!   

Top left, this picture has always been a bit of a mystery but is certainly the Fire Crew minus their usual helmets and lining up in front of goal netting in Crown Meadow and includes J. Farey as well as G. & H. Sawyer. The three in front indicate that it might have been some sort of fund-raising event.

Two other group pictures, one dated 1903, show the tender with all names listed, and there are some well-known Marlow personalities here. Father and son George and Harry Sawyer were undertakers, not working from their later West Street premises, but from a tin building behind their house 'West View' in Claremont Gardens. J.W. 'Jinny' Janes (Escape Foreman) played football for Marlow and was a member of the team that had recorded a famous victory over the professionals of Preston North End. He lived in Cambridge Place.

The 'Hon. Surgeon' Dr John Dunbar Dickson was the town’s best-known medical practitioner and lived at The Gables, with his practice round the corner in the High Street, the recently refurbished building with a stone portico. Also a J.P., he appears in the photograph of the 1911 Coronation Celebrations Committee. Mr C. Page-Dye (Ex-Captain) was a Chemist with his business towards the top of the High Street.  

I was recently delighted to come across this much clearer copy of the final picture – it shows the demise of a furniture factory that existed in Duchess Place, which was a cul-de-sac off Dedmere Road, a little way past Victoria Road. Possibly another case of the fire tender arriving too late to be of much help. The fireman amongst the debris on the right is Harry Sawyer, but the group on the left are presumably the factory employees wondering if they still had a job.

It is amazing that people liked to line up and be photographed alongside a disaster. I have a sepia photo of a serious train crash with a cheery and smiling group posing in front! 

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