Liverpool’s continuing growth in the nineteenth century as a major international commercial and manufacturing centre presented a huge range of fire risks, from packed warehouses full of combustible goods to densely-packed residential areas. The city’s proud firefighting history is a testament to innovation and bravery. Up until World War II, the Liverpool Fire Brigade was part of the police force. The pictured memorial within Toxteth Park Cemetery is therefore known both as the Police Monument and the Fire Brigade Memorial.
For the Fire Bobbies
Erected in 1863, it was paid for by subscription by members of the police force and others to commemorate those who died saving lives and property in fires in the performance of their duties.
The princely sum of around 120 pounds was raised and the memorial was designed by a Mr Beard, the manager of the cemetery at that time. The first names to be engraved were those of Inspector John Commelin, Robert Hardaker and Richard Atkinson.
- Inspector John Commelin was crushed by a falling wall during a fire in 1861 at Messrs Garnock, Bibby & Co on Wavertree Road, a hemp and wire rope making factory. No other lives were lost. John left a wife and young family.
- PC Hardaker No: 384 was one of two men to die in a fire at the Sailors’ Home in 1860, falling 40 feet from a ladder which broke as he was ascending to break windows to fight the fire with water. The other death was of a steward at the Home. All residents were saved.
- PC Richard Atkinson No: 259 died in hospital after sustaining injuries when a wall fell on him at a fire in a packing case manufacturer in School Lane in 1863. No other lives were lost. Richard left a wife and three children.
Further names were added to attest to the bravery of other officers killed in the line of duty over the years, the last two added for deaths in 1921. The memorial was restored and rededicated by Tony McGuirk, Merseyside’s Chief Fire Officer, in 2003.
You can find out more about the fascinating history of Liverpool’s ‘fire bobbies’ at the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service website http://www.merseyfire.gov.uk/Historical/index.htm
Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.