Permission for a part retrospective application to change the former Ramsgate Fire Station in Effingham Street to a community building with offices, events space and storage and a second floor rear extension has been granted by Thanet council.
The plans were lodged last year by Ramsgate Town Council which bought the property in 2019 following a bequeathed estate from resident Mr Radford.
The building was renamed Radford House and has been in use for the council, most notably as a food distribution centre last year during covid lockdowns.
It consists of three floors – the ground area was used for the fire engines before KFRS moved to a purpose built site in Newington Road, a second floor with a kitchen and the upper floor which was sleeping quarters.
When submitting the plans former town clerk Richard Styles told The Isle of Thanet News that the aim was to create a main area on the ground floor for markets and art with partitions so two events could be carried out at the same time. Audio/visual equipment will be installed meaning it could also be used as cinema space. There will be a reception area with a glass partition separating it from the event space but with accessibility for the stairs to the upper floors.
Permission has been given for solar panels to be installed on the Grade II listed building and for the rear fire escape to be removed.
At the front of the property the existing roller doors are to be replaced with timber folding doors and a glazed screen would be installed behind. The tower at the rear of the property will be widened across its full height for the installation of a lift.
A glazed link between the rear tower and the second floor of the main building will provide access to the new lift.
The doors in the rear will be replaced with windows following the removal of the fire escape.
The Effingham Street property was originally a private house belonging to Rear Admiral William Fox. In 1905 Ramsgate Corporation bought the property and converted it into a fire station and the town library and Clarendon House girl’s school were built in the grounds. The station was opened in October 1905 by the Mayor.
The fire service relocated to an £8million new build in Newington Road in 2019.
Ramsgate’s fire station history
Researched by Dusty Miller, compiled by Kirsty Gearey
York Street – 1878
At this time all fire brigade activity was directed by the police under the control of the superintendent, and the fire station was next door to the police station. Fire engines consisted of a manually operated pump pulled by horses and directed by a coachman. Incidents at night were brought to the attention of police, and firefighters acting as messengers had to knock on the doors of crew members’ homes to alert them as there was no living premises.
The process for alerting firefighters was assessed following a serious house fire in Rose Hill on the night of 5 November 1886, in which six members of a family died. There was mass media coverage and the Coroner recorded an open verdict, and made the following comment: “While we are of the opinion that no blame is attached to the police or fire brigade we think a more expeditious method of calling the brigade together should be adopted, and that the fire escape house should be kept unlocked at night.”
This led to the officer in charge, Captain John Matthew, being dismissed, and the appointment of Captain Charles West from Paddington Fire Station London. His first tasks were to update equipment and find new premises.
As time passed other serious incidents occurred and the press were highly critical of the town council, as they felt no effort was being made to find new premises. Finally Captain West, with the assistance of the press, won his campaign and the new station was proposed on 29 August 1904. It was agreed that number 20 Effingham Street would be converted into a fire station with living premises.
Effingham Street – 1905
When the fire service took over the Effingham Street building, it was a private residence that had been empty since 1899. It opened as a station following conversion works on 17 October 1905 by the Mayor Councillor Dowling – 19 years after the fatal fire at Rose Hill. Captain West was always trying to improve facilities and processes, and he persuaded the committee to install call out bells in the homes of 20 firefighters connected by electric wires from the station, as well as street fire alarms connected to the watch room at the station.
He also worked tirelessly for the purchase of new fire engines and secured a manual 20 pumper (this needed 20 people to pump the water by hand – anyone on the street could be asked to pump water, not just firefighters).
Effingham Street – First World War
At the start of World War One Captain West made a formal request to the committee to purchase a motorised fire engine, but he never saw his dreams fulfilled. He died in March 1915 from injuries he sustained when a horse drawn fire engine completely overturned.
Just three months after his death, the committee accepted Captain West’s idea of a motorised pump and agreed to purchase a Merryweather fire engine, which carried 1800 litres of water. Captain Alfred Johnson was appointed as officer in charge in June 1915.
At the end of the war firefighters were recognised for their gallant work throughout the conflict, and in December 1920 Chief Fire Officer Jonson was awarded the Kings Police Medal, and 16 Ramsgate firefighters were awarded the OBE for ‘distinguished service during the war’. Awards were also made to Margate and Broadstairs crews.
In February 1938 the Air Raid Precaution Scheme Act was introduced, and under the act the Home Office gave additional equipment to Ramsgate station. This consisted of one large pump, three trailer pumps and fifteen light trailer pumps.
Effingham Street – Second World War
Many incidents were recorded in World War Two, but the heaviest bombing raid took place on 24 August 1940. Ramsgate was subject to a massive attack in which 500 high explosive and 40 unexploded bombs were recorded. On that day, 32 people were killed in the town, 10 seriously wounded and 48 had minor wounds.
One of the many heroic stories from that day involves two firefighters George Moore and Herbert Wells. They were cycling to duty when they were struck by flying shrapnel. Wells was the most seriously injured, and Moore, despite enemy gun fire in which he received three bullet wounds to his arm, one of which severed an artery, he managed to drag his colleague to safety. Despite his own severe injuries, Moore went to seek help and staggered 300 yards across rubble, broken glass and telephone cables to a nearby first aid post. For his actions Moore was awarded the George Medal.
Effingham Street – Modern day
The Effingham Street station was designed for horse-drawn fire engines, and as firefighting and kit developed, a new space was needed. Modern fire engines didn’t fit into the station without adaptations such as making ladders shorter, and therefore Kent Fire and Rescue Service deemed it time to move on from the station where firefighters had been based for 113 years.
A new location closer to key road networks was found in Newington Road, and work to build a new station fit for 21st century firefighting started in 2017 and was completed in late 2018.
Interesting account of it’s history. Of course, the fire service machines outgrew the station and had to find somewhere new. Hopefully the building will be well used.