The answer lies in the story of the Great Fire of London ...
The Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed over 400 streets and 13,200 houses. The fire gutted the medieval City of London inside the old Roman city wall. It burned for five days.
Basic firefighting equipment included long ladders, leather buckets, axes, and fire hooks. Firebreaks were created by demolishing buildings with gunpowder. The few manual pumps on wheels were pulled by horses or men and could not fit the narrow and congested streets of London during the fire.
Wharf buildings along the river began to burn. Access to water became impossible, which also cut off a significant escape route.
On the fifth day, the wind died down and the Tower of London guards used sufficient gunpowder to make a firebreak large enough to stop the fire before it reached the district of Westminster and Charles II’s Palace of Whitehall.
After the fire and during the re-build, several significant changes took place to ensure a similar disaster never happened again. An ingenious firefighting technique involved hollowing out hundreds of large tree trunks and laying them underground to facilitate a flow of water using a series of water wheels along the Thames. Standpipes (or standing trucks) were sunk into the underground tree-trunk pipes and water was fed to the portable manual pump through smaller branches. Hollowed branches were also used to deliver water from the pump to the fire. And incidentally, the dozen or so men who worked the pumps were paid in beer tokens.
And that’s how the main trunkline and branches got their name. It is also the basis of the longstanding relationship between firefighters and the cold malt brew.
Article contributed by Judith Stanley.
PHOTO: Look and Learn
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