Tuesday, December 24, 2019

James Braidwood

London The Unfinished City
James Braidwood: Founder of the world's first municipal fire service.

I had seen this memorial on many an occasion, but could never quite work out the lettering, although the design obviously made reference to a fire. So, a little digging needed to be done.

The inscription reads;

To the memory of 
James Braidwood, 
superintendent of the 
London Fire Brigade, 
who was killed near this 
in the execution of his 
at the great fire 
on 22nd June 1861

A just man and one that feared God, of good report among all the nation.
Erected by the M. or Southwark Division of the Metropolitan Police

S. H. Gardiner, New Kent Road

Brief History

James Braidwood was a Scottish firefighter, who is credited with creating the modern municipal fire service.

Born in Edinburgh, in 1860, he would go on to study the construction of buildings, at his father's company, before being made Master of Fire Engines, in 1824.

He was instrumental in establishing the principles of fire-fighting, that are still used today.

He joined the London Fire Engine Establishment, in 1833, which was pivotal in saving the Palace of Westminster, when a fire ripped through the building, on October 16, 1834.

On June 22, 1861, a fire broke out at Cotton's Wharf, Tooley Street. Three hours after the fire began a wall collapsed, crushing James Braidwood. It would take two days for his body to be recovered, while the fire continued to blaze for a fortnight.

His funeral cortege, on June 29, stretched for nearly 2.5km behind the hearse.

He is buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.


James Braidwood gave evidence, on December 24, 1828, in the trial of William Burke, of Burke and Hare fame.

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