Keeping the Asylum safe: Fire Brigades

Staffordshire's Asylums

Members of the Coventry volunteer fire brigade, 1862 (wellcome collection CC BY)

This month, we are exploring the early days of Cheddleton
asylum further, and focusing on some elements of the advanced technology of the
times which the hospital exploited, and of which they were innovators.

As asylums grew larger and became more complex
institutions, with more patients and wards, keeping them safe became ever more
complex. In large buildings, often connected by long corridors, one fear
remained ever present – the risk of fire.

This increasing risk became an issue after several fires
occurred in the 1880s and 90s. Questions were asked in the House of Commons in
1883 about withholding licenses from asylums unless they put precautions in
place, following a fire at the private asylum at Southall Park, London. The only
source of water for the fire brigade was found to be a shallow pond a quarter

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