London Fire Brigade

James Braidwood: Father of Firefighting

22 June 2016

155 years ago today James Braidwood, considered by some as the father of firefighting, lost his life. Braidwood was the founder of the country’s first professional metropolitan fire service and the first Fire Chief  in our nation's history.

Born in Edinburgh on 3 September 1800, Braidwood attended the Royal High School, one of the oldest schools in Scotland.

After leaving school he worked as an apprentice for his father’s building firm, where he gained an understanding of construction methods and how fires can spread between buildings.

Master of engines

In 1824, due to an unusual spate of ferocious fires in the Scottish capital, a 24-year-old Braidwood was appointed as the Master of Engines of the country’s first professional fire service.

Braidwood introduced many firefighting principals that remain in use today, such as uniforms that provide some form of personal protection, emphasis of training and a scientific approach to tackling blazes.

On 1 January 1833, Braidwood was appointed as the first Superintendent of the London Fire Engine Establishment. This later became the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and, eventually, London Fire Brigade.

Introduced building codes

While at the helm, he lobbied the government to introduce a building code to define how warehouse structures were designed. He also developed the first-ever breathing apparatus kit and introduced steam-powered pumps into the LFEE.

Died 1861

On 22 June 1861, while attending a fire at Cotton’s Wharf on Tooley Street, Braidwood was crushed when the wall of a building collapsed. He was killed instantly.


His funeral procession, a week later on the 29 June, stretched for more than a mile. He was laid to rest in Abney Park Ceremony, Stoke Newington.

A seven-foot bronze statue of Braidwood can be found in Edinburgh’s Parliament Square.