Marjorie remembers the Market Lavington fire engine

The following piece was sent to the museum by Marjorie, the daughter of Reginald Milsom who designed the local fire engine. Residents of the new housing on Milsom Court might like to know that their area of the village is named after Reginald.


There were no fire engines in villages when I was a girl in Wiltshire the 1930s. When I was about 10 years old, my father Reginald Milsom built the first fire engine for Market Lavington. Father was a motor engineer and owned the garage and taxi company in Church Street opposite the village church. In 1935, at the age of 14 years old, I left school and joined him in the business, collecting my overalls from Robert Kemp in The Brittox in Devizes. I stayed with him for 16 years, working with the men and learning the trade. We collected and delivered cars for repair in a 10-mile area, as at that time there were few garages, or cars, around.

In 1929 the only fire appliance in the village was a tender, which had to be towed behind a lorry, and my father used to stand on the back stoking the boiler when racing to a fire. But one day the tender hit the curb and it turned over. After my father recovered from his injuries, the Council asked him to build the village a motorised replacement fire engine, which he did. The village of Mere had recently acquired a new fire engine so my father went over and copied the design, then built it to those specifications. The fire engine was a great success and served the village and surrounding villages well for over 20 year years. It was housed in The Fire Station in the Market Place. The photograph below shows my father at the wheel of the fire engine.

Mr Milson drives the fire engine he designed and built - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

There were no roadside stopcocks to supply water, so the water had to be taken from rivers and streams – hence the large basket on the rear of the engine, which filtered all the mud from the water. The firemen sat back to back on the long box running down the centre in which all the hoses were stored. It was manned by a very enthusiastic crew of volunteers, all local men who were very proud to be called the village firemen – they did a great job. The church verger Mr Tom Merritt was the Captain, and his two sons Alf Merritt and Jack Merritt were also in the team, the others being Fred Perry, Alan “Shuner” Baker, Cecil Baker, Jim Hurkett, Albert Potter and driver Dicky Burt. The following photograph shows the crew in uniform:

The Market Lavington Fire Brigade in uniform

The fire engine was kept in service for many years until the time came when the government nationalised the Fire Service. Lavington then came under Devizes and OUR fire engine was no longer needed. When the fire engine was broken up, Ben Baker of Market Lavington made a gate-legged table using wood from the old fire engine. I still have this table today in my flat. My father died in 1960 aged 72, but I am sure the number of villagers who remember his contribution to the safety of the village are very few.

Marjorie (nee Milsom) Salisbury, August 2009

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3 Responses to “Marjorie remembers the Market Lavington fire engine”

  1. John Burgess Says:

    There is in the museum a later photo of a fire engine in the high steet. One fireman at the time was George Stone who lived at Lavington Hill. He had a bell on his house that called him to fire service when needed.

  2. The Fire Station Bureau « Market Lavington Museum Says:

    […] fire engine with a steam powered pump to a proper lorry style fire engine in the 1930s. You can click here to read Marjorie Milsom’s account of how her father came to build the first proper fire engine in […]

  3. Market Lavington Fire Brigade in 1942 | Market Lavington Museum Says:

    […] With that information there isn’t a lot to add. You can read more about Mr Reg Milsom and the fire engine by clicking here. […]

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