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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Edwardian Fire Station Calling Post & St Paul's Church, Wightman Rd

Opposite the church on the corner of Wightman Road and Station Approach, the stand that looks like a lamp post bears the legend "Fire Station" around the top. I assume the object next to it was a fire hydrant. Sadly. this must have been out of commission by 1984!

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Tags (All lower case. Use " " for multiple word tags): st paul's church, wightman road
Albums: Historical Images of Harringay from 1885 - 1918 | 2 of 3 (F)

Comment by Dick Harris on January 25, 2013 at 1:12

It's hard to see the words you mention although, if it referred to the train station it might make sense.  The object doesn't look much like a fire hydrant to me it could be an old call point of some kind.  I have certainly seen them in the past but can't recall what they were for.  Before public telephones became commonplace, I think signalling devices like this were used to call the fire brigade.

Comment by Hugh on January 25, 2013 at 7:02

This is about the best I can do:

Comment by Dick Harris on January 25, 2013 at 13:01

It's certainly a very attractive lamp post.  Perhaps the second word isn't station but "main", which would support your idea that the other object is a hydrant.  The trouble is, that it doesn't seem to have the features necessary for a hydrant.  Of course, today these are usually below ground under a cover like the one outside 25 Wightman Road just across the street from the church.  Perhaps the lamp was simply intended to advertise the presence of the call point and a hydrant which is not visible in the photo.  If the lettered panels were glass, it would have been nicely visible after dark.  In trying to find a reference to one of these objects (having mislaid my old I-Spy books) I came across an interesting list of the street furniture that the City of London has listed for preservation.  See:http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/environment-and-planning/en... Unfortunately, the list does not include an example of this item.

Comment by hob on January 25, 2013 at 14:21

It does look like "MAIN." I have seen somewhere that there was a system to make it easy to find water mains at night. The letters were probably red in white to highlight it. 

Comment by hob on January 25, 2013 at 16:09

I checked and the fire hydrant is there and dated 1897. You can see it in the picture, just left of the lamp. The other item must be some emergency system but if it was a telephone I would have thought it would be higher as the mouthpiece used to be fixed with a flexible earpiece.

Comment by Hugh on January 25, 2013 at 16:37

Thanks for the info, Hob.

Comment by Dick Harris on January 25, 2013 at 19:08

Without a local battery or a magneto, it wouldn't have been a telephone at that date but it could perhaps have been a simpler electrical signalling device of some kind.  It might also be that the fire service made use of the telegraph facilities of the railway.  Some of the more hilarious possibilities are described on page 4 and 5 of the document at: http://www.britishtelephones.com/police/boxes.pdf in which both electricity and gas are involved.

Comment by hob on January 26, 2013 at 17:37

It appears to be something like an American invention called Gamewell's "Electromagnetic Fire Alarm Telegraph for Cities." It automatically sent off its location in morse code when activated. It is still here in a picture Liz posted from circa 1930. That would make sense as the 999 system only started in 1937.  

Comment by Hugh on January 26, 2013 at 18:57

Looks very much like you may be right Mr Hob. Fascinating.

Comment by Dick Harris on January 26, 2013 at 20:00

Hob and Hugh, we seem to be getting closer and closer.  Searching the website of the London Fire Brigade museum (http://lfb.mediastorehouse.com/dmcs_search.html?find=%22electric+fi...) I located these two photos which both carried the legend which follows:

A passer-by pulls a fire alarm to notify the fire brigade of an incident. By the outbreak of the First World War the London Fire Brigade area was well covered with electric fire alarms. On breaking the glass cover, the brass handle was pulled and this would register at the fire station the precise location of the alarm. The instruction on the alarm says, “Wait for Engine”, so that the caller could then direct the crew into action.

The one shown here is not the same as the one in Hugh's photo above but maybe there was more than one model.  A message to the museum might resolve this matter.

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