Thursday, 23 June 2011


On Wednesday I was invited by Professor David Bland OBE, Master Firefighter, to a Master's Reception and Supper at Winchester House, Southwark.  I was delighted to accept, particularly because David is also a member of the St Michael's, Cornhill Parochial Church Council.  For more information about the Firefighters' Company go to
An all-Victorian hero.  Sir Eyre Massey Shaw in his full regalia as a fireman and sporting a splendid array of facial hair that would probably be completely unacceptable on Elf and Safety grounds in these less flamboyant times.
A bit of explanation in that Winchester House is the former home of Sir Eyre Massey Shaw, the first Chief Officer of the Metropolitan (later London) Fire Brigade in it critical formative years between 1861 to 1891.  He was a great showman and socialite and much enjoyed encouraging Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, attending fires dressed in an 'improved' and most glamorous fireman's uniform.  Eventually Queen Victoria forbade these escapades.

Over the years Winchester House and adjoining buildings have become the home of the London Fire Brigade's Museum.  For more details go to

Shaw is best known today as the 'Captain Shaw' to whom the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe addresses herself, wondering if his 'brigade with cold cascade' - clearly Freud had yet to be invented -could quench her great love. Shaw was present in the stalls at the first night of Iolanthe in 1882, and Alice Barnett playing the Fairy Queen, addressed herself directly to him. Legend has it that he stood up and took a bow. Incidentally until I was told the story I always thought it was the Fairy Queen was making a general statement addressed to an impersonal 'captain sure.'  I now know better.

The museum is well worth a visit.  Yet again it brought back a lot of memories.  My responsibilities in the Army on a number of occasions included control of Army Fire Brigade units.  Equipment was not often of the most modern and many of the displays of equipment in the museum I had observed in use.

As part of the visit we were also briefed about the London Fire Brigade's excellent work with young people across the city under the general heading of the Local Intervention Fire Education (LIFE) scheme. If you want to find out more go the LFB site;

1 comment:

  1. Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,