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Fire Brigade WV, South Barrack Ramp

Ref: IN2064

Fire Brigade plaque located in South Barrack Ramp. It is recorded with the designation W.V.

Fire Brigade plaques are identifiable by the following designations:

B.P.                By-Pass

F.C.                Fire Cock

F.W.V             Fresh Water Valve

S.W.V             Salt Water Valve

W.V.               Water Valve

 

Fire Brigade plaques

Prior to 1865, there was no Fire Brigade as such in Gibraltar, so all firefighting duties were carried out by the Military. The Sanitary Order in Council, which set up the Sanitary Commissioners in 1865, placed upon them the responsibility of the prevention and extinction of fires. The Order in Council also authorised the Governor to make from time to time, Rules and Regulations for the extinction and prevention of fires. In 1871, the first fire cocks - as the fire hydrants were called at the time - were installed together with fire-fighting equipment that were placed strategically at various locations around Gibraltar. Subsequently, a fire brigade service, under military control, was established with premises at 6 Convent Place with another station at North Front. In 1877, a third station was established at North Pavilion Road.

In December 1920, the premises at the Main Guard in Commercial Square (now John Mackintosh Square) were made available to the City Council by the War Department for use exclusively as a Fire Station, and on condition, they would be immediately surrendered if they were needed for War Department purposes.

Judging by some of the photographs taken around this period, the establishment of the Main Guard Fire Station coincided more or less with the first fire brigade plaques than began to appear at various points around Gibraltar’s old town. Such markers assisted fire brigade personnel identify the locations of the various fire cocks set up by the City Council in the event of a fire. Many areas of the upper town were difficult, if not impossible, for fire engines to access so the new City Council responded by introducing Fire Cocks at key points which served a dual purpose; to assist the fire brigade extinguish fires and for hygienic street cleaning purposes.

Water valves, embossed with appropriate lettering, were identified by type; SWV, FWV and WV for example. To differentiate one from another, plaques were often painted in distinct colours as attested by several old photos of the 1920’s. Further technical details were often painted on the plaques representing the distance (in feet and inches) from the plate to the ground pit within which the valve was located on the road, but by the 1970’s with the installation of new hydrants protruding from the ground directional specifications specifications were no longer required. It was also at this time that the modern yellow hydrant plaques began to replace the old iron-cast plaques.  By 1970, these iron-cast plaques were no longer being made and have gradually disappeared in many parts of town due to restoration works, or as old buildings have been demolished.

Since the 1920’s, the plaques had been cast locally by the City Council, colloquially known as La Colonia, which later became the Public Works Department. They were made at a foundry in Queensway, near to the Montagu Sea-bathing Pavilion. When construction of West Side School began in the early 1980’s, the foundry relocated to the Old Mole Head – coincidentally, this is where the present site of the new West Side School building is located.

By the 1970’s, however, iron casting of these types of plaques were no longer considered economically viable, but some of the original 1920’s Master Copy molds have been preserved. Three were saved by Mr, Elio Cohen, P.T.O. at the foundry for many years and these have now been donated to the Ministry for Heritage to conserve. A fourth mold, with the lettering F.C. was found, and preserved by Mr. Francis Mena, who also worked in the Old Mole foundry as a mechanical/MT Fitter up to the mid-1980’s.

Location of Fire Brigade W.V. plaque, South Barrack Ramp.

Mount Pleasant Cable & Wireless HQ, 1967. A Fire Brigade plaque is located on the wall to the right.

Fire Brigade WV, South Barrack Ramp Image

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