Bond Street in the 1950s looking south towards the Eagle Street and Rope Walk junction. The taller three storey building is the Fire Station which was in use from the days of horse-drawn fire engines through to the 1960s. The striking hose tower can be seen behind. The building in the right foreground with the large doorway was used as an annexe to the fire station to accommodate motorised fire engines etc.; today it is a school of dance. In the immediate right foreground is clear evidence of demolition in progress. Below this is the same view today.
The old Bond Street Fire Station closed in 1982 on the opening of Princes Street Fire Station. Bond Street predated the Colchester Road Fire Station by a considerable time but when the latter opened Bond Street became a ‘satellite station' of Colchester Road. Each watch (shift) would detach a crew of five down to Bond Street for six weeks at a time.
It was a fantastic opportunity for new firefighters to learn the topography and risks of the town. Crews serving down there for their six week detachment were largely left to themselves under the command of a leading firefighter. There were regular venues we visited and trained at around the town and docks including risks such as the malting buildings in Felaw Street. They allowed us to pitch ladders against their buildings and carry out breathing apparatus drills.
I was fortunate enough to serve many detachments there under the command of a leading firefighter called Dave Knight, who made it his duty to ensure we learnt something every shift (I hope he gets to read this if any member knows his contact details).
Bond Street fire station housed two fire appliances at the time, one crewed by the full time firefighters and one by retained firefighters who responded when additional fire crews were needed in the town. Bond Street crews were usually first on the scene of any fire in the town centre, a valuable opportunity to gain experience.
Very much part of the full time fire cover for the town and surrounding areas, Bond Street fire crews were a key part of the Suffolk Fire Service response to what were then known as the Standards of Fire Cover, Home Office standards set just after the Second World War and updated in 1985. Much has changed in the work of the (now) Fire and Rescue Service and the risk profile of the town itself has changed and, of course, continues to change. Quite rightly more emphasis was, and is now, given to fire safety in the home and community. This cannot be argued with and has led to significant reductions in the number of fires in the home and fire casualties.
What does not change is the potential for fire and its consequences. I do not envy those now responsible for balancing budget cuts and the provision of an adequate, responsive fire and rescue service. Suffolk has always been well served by its Fire and Rescue Service personnel and crews and I hope they remain adequately resourced for that to continue.
I would urge all readers, both at home and at work, to be ‘fire aware'. If you need advice contact your local fire and rescue service. They are always hugely helpful and keen to assist and advise.
It was always rumoured that the Bond Street fire station building was haunted. I recall hoping I would not miss a ‘shout' in the middle of the night and be left there alone! Bit of a confession but I assure readers - I was not the only one.
(Graham is The Ipswich Society's Treasurer and a retired fire officer.)