*Historical* You probably would have driven past this nondescript building many times, shown on the left of the photo above. It’s situated on the mini-roundabout in Pound Street at the end of West Street. You can just make out the lamp of the old fire station on the left side, of the early 1900s photo below, showing exactly the same view.
This is where Carshalton’s fire station once stood and these are the local men who served there. Amongst them are Chief Fire Officer Harwood, with the long white beard, and Mr Preen in the centre below the lamp. They’re all dressed in smart uniforms with polished buttons and boots.
The near-enough exact position of the fire station is marked by a white border on the photo below.
The service began in 1867 and probably at the time of these photos, it was funded by Carshalton Urban District Council, who formed in 1894. The station was most likely extended that year, to house the latest fire engine – a magnificent horse-drawn contraption. Major Lovelock was the first Clerk of the new Urban District Council, pictured in army uniform, second from left, below.
Although all the men have a story to tell, we have found quite a lot to share with you, of one firefighter in particular, local wheelwright Tom Preen.
Pictured here are one of his grandsons Terry Phipps and great grandsons Richard Graves. Terry is holding up a photo of his grandfather, Tom, wearing a number 2 medal for a national competition with 6 other men.
Born in 1864 in Amersham, Tom came to Carshalton in his early twenties, and lived at the quaint Waterhouse cottage in West Street. He spent the rest of his life in Carshalton, and lived in four different homes in the area.
A wheelwright was an important job building wheels for wagons and they would work closely with blacksmiths who would provide the iron treads.
Tom, with two of his brothers, Harry and John, took over a blacksmiths in 1888, which stood near enough next door to the Fire Station in Pound Street – where Nicole Lodge is now.
Two years later, in August 1889, Tom joined the fire service. Aged 25, it would be a good way to make friends and continue to make business acquaintances in the local community. Tom’s pictured below, just below the N of Carshalton.
By 1901 The blacksmiths company Tom worked at with his brothers went bankrupt – and the location later became Wardills Cycles.
Tom branched out on his own and became a wheelwright, coachbuilder and farrier, whilst continuing as a fireman. His horses were used to pull the fire engine.
By 1902 Tom was working from his own wood yard in Carshalton Park Road making wheels for carts, and lived next door in the recently built Park Cottage with his wife Margaret and children. The person in the picture may not be Tom though.
Here’s a recent shot of Park Cottage, on the far right of the photo. You can see the matching chimney.
Tom kept horses in the field opposite his wood yard (now part of All Saints graveyard, extended following ww1 ).
Tom would sometimes drive the local horse-drawn bus between Carshalton and Croydon, up until the arrival of trams in Ruskin Road in 1906 – something he most likely didn’t welcome. There was a tram crash soon after they went into service in 1907, and it’s said that the fire brigade horses, led by Tom, were called to help right the carriage.
Fire Services would often enter local competitions, such as ‘Best Hose Drill’. Here’s a certificate received in 1908 – and superintendent Preen is mentioned.
You’ll see that Tom often wears 3 medals, which show long service of at least 20 years with the fire service. Great grandson Richard shows a photo of Tom wearing his medals.
The medal on the left reads “Ten years service, five years service, Surrey Fire Brigade Association”. The middle one reads “2nd prize, six men open to All England”, and the one on the right reads “10 years, five years, long service, T. Preen, Sub Engineer, Carshalton Brigade”
Tom fathered an incredible 23 children, 11 with Margaret Harris (Richard’s great grandmother) and 12 more with Louisa Goldsmith (Terry’s grandmother). Tom carried on service with the fire brigade when they moved to new premises built in 1911, at what is now the play centre in The Square (built as council officers and recently a library).
That same year Tom purchased a closed pub at Old Swan Yard, just off West Street by Carshalton Water Tower. He turned this into a successful wood business – pictured below. Sadly it’s probably not him shown, but it’s a fascinating photograph and it’s good to know the building still exists, though altered.
Tom Preen died in 1930 aged 66. Here’s a picture of his grave in All Saints churchyard in Carshalton, just behind the wall was the field where he once kept horses.
There is a Preen society that tracks the family across the world, and in 2015 the Carshalton branch met at The Greyhound in Carshalton.
This story highlights the life and work of ordinary people during Victorian times, and we’d like to thanks Terry (who still lives in Carshalton) and Richard (who lives in Whitstable) for helping share an insight into the world of old Carshalton.
*As always, we try and be as careful as possible when writing these posts, to ensure accurate facts. If you spot any incorrect information, we’d be grateful if you could let us know in the comments below.
Copyright attributions. Please ask permission before use.
Main fire station, badge pics and more © Terry Phipps 2022
Shot of prize certificate © Trevor 2022
Some old photos ©Sutton heritage archive service
Collating research and current pictures ©Secret Carshalton 2022
And just over the road…