Watch summer student, Nicholas, as he shows his staff pick: a fire fighter’s helmet from the late 1800s.
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The helmet is made from several pieces of bronze that are riveted together. Inside there is a leather skull cap to protect the wearer from heat damage. It is embossed with pictures of fire fighting equipment, the Maltese cross and a fire breathing dragon. Helmets like these were worn during fires as well as when on parade back when they had no fire training burn rooms and firefighters had to deal with each instance as if it was their first.
This style of helmet was first introduced in 1868 to replace the leather helmets worn by the Fire Brigade in London, England.. It was made by the Maryweather Company. The helmet quickly became popular for fire brigades throughout the British Empire. They were worn by fire fighters right up to the 1930s when they were replaced by a cork and rubber composite helmet.
Glanmore has two fire fighter’s helmets in our collection. Both were worn by James Cummins, a local harness maker and volunteer fire fighter. Cummins was a foreman for the Independent Hose Company, No. 2.
The bronze helmet is dated 1869, the year the fire station was established.
The second helmet in Glanmore’s collection is Nickel-plated. Nickel-plated helmets were worn by officers. Cummins received this helmet after his promotion to Assistant Chief Engineer in 1881.
Glanmore staff are currently developing a large scale exhibit about the history of the Belleville Fire Department. Both helmets will be part of the display.
The exhibit will be installed later this summer at Fire Station No. 1, 60 Bettes Street, Belleville. The grand opening of the exhibit will take place as part of Doors Open Belleville activities on September 17, 2016.