Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade

Brigade History


The first attempt to form a brigade for the small township of Greytown was undertaken as early as May 1874 after fires destroyed various buildings. Unfortunately, this attempt and a couple of further attempts soon after failed. The final stimulus came in October 1881 after the big fire which destroyed both the Workingmen’s Club and the Gentlemen’s Club! These buildings together with a number of other notable buildings including The Rising Sun Hotel, the Bakery, Caselberg’s Store, the Courthouse and Police Station, were destroyed in the two or three years prior to 1881, adding to a total of eleven buildings totally destroyed by fire. It was to be yet another year, following the fire which destroyed R.A. Wakelin’s Sash and Door Factory in 1882 that the residents of Greytown finally gathered the drive and a petition was forwarded to the Government of the day, highlighting the long overdue need for a brigade. A fortnight later on 6th February 1882, a motion was put to the Greytown Borough Council by Cr. E. Gray, “to vote fifty pounds toward the establishment of a brigade, wells, ladders and all contingencies”. The motion was seconded by Cr. Bright and was successfully carried.

The first Captain appointed was Mr. James Baillie, who also acted as Secretary and Treasurer. Captain Baillie very ably commanded the brigade through these early years for four years until 1886, when he was succeeded by Mr. James Maguire. The first station to be established was attached to the Town hall, situated on the corner of Main Street and Church Street.
At a meeting of the Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade held on 11th September 1888, notice was received of the arrival from London of the new fire engine, a Merryweather Hand Pump. This engine arrived on board the “SS Kaikoura” and was awaiting delivery in Wellington.

                         Competition team infront of 1888 Mereweather

Looking to the future, in 1888, James Lewis of the Brigade, on behalf of his wife, Jane Lewis, offered to the brigade a section of land at 163 Main St. The asking price of title was £5. Realising the importance to look forward, the Brigade proposed to accept the offer, the motion was carried unanimously.

On the morning of the 12th October 1889, the brigade received a heavy blow when a disastrous fire destroyed the town hall and station shed. Fortunately the engine had a narrow escape, being removed from its burning shed just in time. However, the brigade which was now an established unit was not daunted by this unfortunate setback and took refuge in Oddfellows Hall for their meetings. On the 28th October, a meeting was held where it was decided that a replacement station must be built immediately. Plans were received almost at once and the subject was brought before the Greytown Borough Council for their assistance to build the new station.  In 1890, the section of land own by the Brigade was transferred to the ratepayers in such a way that it could only be used for Fire Brigade purposes. The Borough council granted £25 towards the estimated £150 cost of the building.

                         Parade down Main St celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Greytown Fire Brigade

With the passing of the brigades 75th anniversary celebrations, thoughts were put towards a new fire station to be build on the present site, opposite the then Forresters Arms Hotel. In 1962 the new station opened giving Greytown one of the most up to date stations in the country. Standing behind the station is a 12m steel tower, used for hanging hose to dry and contains the siren.

April 1976 saw the end of an era, with legislation requiring the borough council to hand over control of the brigade to the newly formed New Zealand Fire Service Commission. With such administration, it ensured the continuance of training and equipping the brigade, bringing it past its centennial, turning it into the modern fire fighting and rescue unit that it is today.