Harleston Museum seeks home for 18th-century fire engine

A Norfolk museum is appealing for somewhere to store an 18th-century fire engine it has saved for posterity.

The hand-pump Bristow engine was discovered by Harleston Museum curator Judy Alder at the Bridewell Museum in Norwich, which wanted to make space for local exhibits.

However, Harleston's museum is too small to house the engine, which was built in late 1764 or early 1765, so it went to Bressingham Steam Museum, but Bressingham has now decided the fire engine no longer fits in with its collection.

'It's part of Harleston's history, so it's lovely to think it's coming back – we just need somewhere to store it,' said Mrs Alder, who has been trying to get the fire engine back to Harleston for about three years.

'The engine is in pretty good condition but it needs a lot of restoration, and when we've got it, we can apply for funding. Ideally, we'd like somewhere secure where the renovation work can take place.'

Mrs Alder is researching the history of the fire engine, which appears to start when local notable John Kerrich decided the town should have one and set about collecting donations.

They first approached a Mr Ragg to supply the engine, but it didn't arrive. It turned out that he was 'under misfortune and in confinement' (possibly in debtors' prison, suggested Mrs Alder) and so they approached engine maker John Bristow in London, paying �63 16s 10d.

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The engine was transported by water on the Friendship via Great Yarmouth, then Bungay and by road to Harleston in 1765.

Mrs Alder does not know how long it remained in use, but Sid Taylor remembers seeing it in the town in the 1930s.

If you can store the fire engine, please contact Judy Alder on 01379 854423 or email jwork@tiscali.co.uk

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