London Fire Brigade

Brigade marks 150th anniversary with Cathedral thanksgiving

04 July 2016

A parade and special service of thanksgiving was held  in Southwark Cathedral on Tuesday (5 July) to mark our 150th anniversary.

The parade set off at 2pm from Winchester House, home to the Brigade’s first Chief Officer and part of our former headquarters, before winding  its way along Southwark Bridge Road to the cathedral.

A  colour party of four serving firefighters carried the Brigade’s iconic Watling Street bell – which used to hang in the former Watling Street fire station - along the parade route. They were joined by our Ceremonial team who carried the current London Fire Brigade Standard, a Colour Sergeant from the Royal Marines and drummers and pipers from the Honourable Artillery Company.

Guard of honour

A guard of honour representing staff from across the Brigade, our fire cadets and retired firefighters met the parade at the cathedral’s entrance, along with vehicles from the Brigade's fleet.

The service commemorated our relationship with Southwark Cathedral and formally acknowledged the Brigade’s old Standards, which have been hung in its south transept. The Standards are an important  symbolic representation of the Brigade at ceremonial events and are displayed as part of the cortege at funerals for serving and retired firefighters. 

Cathedral a fitting venue for 150th service

Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “London Fire Brigade has had a long and close relationship with both Southwark Cathedral and the borough of Southwark so it’s very fitting that we marked our 150th year with this service at the cathedral.

“The service was a very special opportunity for serving and retired members of our staff, as well as their friends and family and the wider community, to give thanks to all those who have served the Brigade, past and present, protecting our capital for the last century and a half.”

Southwark’s historic fire

The Brigade’s relationship with Southwark and its cathedral goes back many years, with fire crews attending a number of historic blazes  in the borough since the Brigade’s formation in 1866. These have included the 1890 fire at WA Rose & Co’s oil mills in Bankside, one of the largest petroleum fires of the 19th century and the 1920 blaze at The Hop and Malt Exchange.

Southwark was one of the most heavily bombed areas of London during World War Two but its cathedral, like St. Pauls,  emerged relatively unscathed, only suffering external shrapnel damage. This was largely a result of the local  Auxiliary Fire Service, and later the National Fire Service firefighters who protected the cathedral and the surrounding area together with Air Raid Precautions Wardens and fire watchers.