Hand held squirt
Used around the time of the Great Fire; ID no. B741
Would a fire engine
like this actually have been used during the Great Fire in 1666?
Although some fire engines were used to try and fight the
Great Fire, they weren’t that effective. The fire was a great impetus to
develop better fire-fighting techniques. This engine was developed by John
Keeling, in about 1678, in his workshop in Blackfriars. At the time they had
squirts- rather like big metal syringes- but they didn’t do much. There was a
market for better fire-fighting technology, from the government and also from
the newly-created insurance companies.
So what have you
learned from reconstructing the fire engine?
Firstly, that it was incredibly heavy. Even without any
water in it, it weighs over a half a ton. It rolls alright over level, smooth
ground, but the operators would have had
real difficulty pulling this uphill, or over rough ground. It also has a very
poor turning circle. So in other words, this engine could only have been used
in wide, well-maintained streets- in other words, the richer parts of town. If you tried to
take it down narrow lanes, with ruts or cobblestones- forget it.