London Fire Brigade

Fire brigade founder honoured with forest opened in his name

11 August 2016

A forest named after the first chief officer of London Fire Brigade has been officially opened in Rainham.

Braidwood Forest, in Ingrebourne Hill, Rainham Road, was planted on 23 March this year as part of the Brigade's 150th anniversary celebrations.

The forest – which is on land donated by the Forestry Commission - was named after James Braidwood, the first Superintendent of London Fire Brigade, after a competition among Brigade staff. 

Mr Braidwood's great great great granddaughter, Diana Hamilton-Jones, travelled from The Netherlands for the official opening of the forest and gave a short speech.

Diana Hamilton-Jones with Station Manager Dave Hill and London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson

Ms Hamilton-Jones said: "James Braidwood is today very much an unsung hero, so to have this new forest named after him means that every visitor who comes to enjoy the peace and beauty of the area will go away knowing who he was and how much he contributed to our society.

"It means a great deal to the family that firefighters have put forward his name for recognition 155 years after his death. 

"This year is a very special one for London Fire Brigade as they celebrate their 150th anniversary and I am sure that Mr Braidwood would be humbled by the recognition he is receiving as part of their celebrations. 

"When I was kindly invited by the London Fire Commissioner to attend this event, I was very honoured and only too pleased to fly over from my home in The Netherlands."

Giving back to the community

A total of 150 trees were planted at the forest site as a way of giving back to the community, as much of the Brigade's early fire gear was made of wood.

London's water supply also used to be carried by a system of underground pipes made from hollowed-out oak and elm tree trunks and provided a readily available source of water to fight fires.

Mr Braidwood originally founded the country's first professional municipal fire service in Edinburgh. He then became the first Superintendent of the London Fire Engine Establishment, which later became the Metropolitan Fire Brigade before being renamed London Fire Brigade.

In his time with the Brigade, Mr Braidwood introduced a uniform which for the first time, included some form of personal protection for the hazards of fire fighting, as well as working on improving conditions for firefighters.

Mr Braidwood was killed in service at the Tooley Street fire in June 1861 at the age of 61 years old.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, who attended the opening, said: "It is an honour to have been joined by the great great great granddaughter of James Braidwood in the Brigade's 150th anniversary year.

"Naming the forest after James Braidwood is a fitting tribute and I hope it will help raise the profile of the work he did for the Brigade.

"The forest helps us give back to the community and I hope it will be enjoyed by the community in Rainham and further afield for years to come."

Green Impact

The event on Thursday also saw a small token of gratitude presented to everyone that planted a tree in March and the Brigade's Green Impact Awards were handed out.

The Green Impact Awards recognise Brigade workers and their efforts to be environmentally friendly at their fire station or office.

The awards are a measure of how important the Brigade takes its environmental credentials. The Brigade encourages staff to get involved and be an environmentally friendly organisation.