Ramsgate’s Radford House to remain open prior to renovation work next Spring

Events are being held at Radford House

Plans for the renovation of Ramsgate’s former fire station, now known as Radford House, are predicted to begin early in spring next year.

Ramsgate Town Council, which bought the former fire station building in 2019 following a bequeathed estate from resident Mr Radford, aims for the site to be turned into a community centre with offices, events space and storage and a second floor rear extension.

The plans were granted permission by Thanet council in 2021.

Artist image of finished alterations (del Renzio and del Renzio)

The building has been in use with regular community events, larger events hiring the hall and a full house with people and small businesses hiring the upstairs workspaces and  Ramsgate Town Council is keeping it open until the end of February 2024.

The old fire engine hall with its huge shutter windows is available for hire as a party, conference, display, training, class or performance space. There’s also a training/teaching space upstairs and a meeting room for hourly hires.

Refillable Van

Plans are afoot for new events in January and February alongside the three regular events- the Refillable Van, a weekly Chat Time free access community session and Sketch Club with artist Julia Rogers.

Other events to date have included a charity fashion show, poetry extravaganza, Screaming Alley’s members’ nights, a climate change conference, SEK’s Boost launch, roller dance, yoga, exhibitions, the wake for fireman Ronald Castle and half-term workshops for families.

Fashion show Photo Mike Morrison

Lots more is to come, including Ramsgate’s Advent Doors on 18 December and a party for members of East Kent Mencap.

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.

Regular updates about the project will be on the “Radford House” Facebook page.

Anyone interested in looking around, finding out more or using the building should get in touch for a chat, via [email protected].

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.

The station at Effingham Street when it was empty

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.