Heres a scan of an item from the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum archive. After our chat at the MHF about some of the plates/images in their collection, they kindly sent me this one that they believe is one of the earliest in their collection.
Further info from their email:
It is dated 1849, though we cannot guarantee the accuracy of that. I believe it is probably close to the truth though. It depicts the demonstration of a wheeled “escape ladder” in what is now Albert Square, along the frontage opposite the Town Hall, near to the corner of Queen Street. I believe the square as we now know it was probably not laid out by this date and, indeed, the picture appears to show buildings on the right hand side which would put them slap bang in the middle of present day Albert Square. Between 1825 and and 1866, the headquarters of Manchester Fire Brigade was on the site which is now the Town Hall, then known as the Town’s Yard, Clarence Street. This was also the depot for street cleaners etc and incorporated firemen’s cottages. Clarence Street today runs from Princess Street, near to the corner of the Town Hall and up towards Tib Lane etc. So Clarence Street once extended across what would now be the frontage of the Town Hall towards Mount Street.The Triangular shape of the Town Hall roughly matches that of the old yard on the site.
The gentlemen with top hats in the picture are the policemen of the day. When the new Town Hall was planned, the Town’s Yard was demolished and the fire brigade moved to a new station on Jackson’s Row (now the site of Bootle Street police station, near to Albert Square).
We also have one or two old images taken inside the Town’s Yard, which we believe were probably taken in the 1860s though could be older.
Although its dated 1849 it more likely to be a few years later. Looking at the quality its probable that the wet plate collodion process was used, and this wasn’t available till after 1851. So they are correct to say it might be a little later than 1849.
Its a great image to start with but then I started seeing the details. Like the people in the windows in the basement…
and in the windows above…. I hadn’t noticed them at first viewing.
Thanks to Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum for permission to reproduce this image here on my blog.
It does make me think what wonderful archives smaller museums must have but the lack of funding makes it difficult to be appreciated by a larger audience.
IMAGE COPYRIGHT – GREATER MANCHESTER FIRE SERVICE MUSEUM