‘Lost’ Victorian Fire Engine Returns to Blenheim Palace

A ‘lost’ horse-drawn Victorian Merryweather fire engine that was part of Blenheim Palace’s private fire brigade has returned to the Palace.

Its re-appearance marks the end of a years-long hunt for the historic engine, which will now take pride of place as part of a new exhibition in the Palace’s stable yard, alongside two other manual fire engines dating back to the early 18th century.

The engine was brought back to the Palace by Hook Norton firefighter Nigel Matthews, who is a fire engine enthusiast and transported all three of the engines for free.

He was joined by Chris Wilson, a local fire officer in Oxfordshire who is the brigade historian and used his network of contacts nationally to locate the fire engine, and Neil McElvenny, a senior officer in Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, who also helped in the search.

To mark the ceremony local firefighters from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue and engines were also at the Palace to welcome the engine home.

Blenheim Palace incorporated its own brigade in the mid to late 1800s and owned a variety of fire appliances, including the Merryweather.

Believed to have been built by Merryweather & Sons in 1890, the horse-drawn engine used a steam boiler to create pressure to pump water. It was mounted on a four-wheeled sprung carriage.

After many years of operation, the engine was taken out of service and showcased at various Victorian steam shows around the country before settling at Shipston Fire Station then Nuneaton.

In 2018 our Operations Director, Heather Carter, launched a nationwide search to track the engine down and return it to the Palace.

“It’s fantastic we’re finally able to welcome the Merryweather engine home and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in tracking it down and bringing it back to us.

“In particular Nigel, Chris and Neil who have been so supportive and enthusiastic throughout the long search.

“Blenheim’s fire engine will provide a fascinating insight into the history of the Palace and it’s a perfect addition to our new Stables Exhibition, which focuses on the vital role horses have played at the Estate over the centuries,” she added.

In 1898 our Estate was the venue of a Fire Brigades Rally. Permission to stage the event was given by the 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871 – 1934) who was also the President of the National Fire Brigades Union at the time. 

The Blenheim fire brigade was still in operation during the Second World War.

Read more and visit the Fire Engine.

Firefighters Smith and Pidduck with the Merryweather fire engine at Blenheim Palace PIC Pete Seaward Firefighters from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue with the restored Merryweather engine at Blenheim Palace PIC Pete Seaward Blenheim Palace Fire Brigade with Merryweather Engine photograph by Henry Taunt