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Brixton Fire Station

A Grade II Listed Building in Lambeth, London

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Latitude: 51.4638 / 51°27'49"N

Longitude: -0.1095 / 0°6'34"W

OS Eastings: 531422

OS Northings: 175560

OS Grid: TQ314755

Mapcode National: GBR MY.KG

Mapcode Global: VHGR6.1GYQ

Plus Code: 9C3XFV7R+G5

Entry Name: Brixton Fire Station

Listing Date: 25 May 1995

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1251337

English Heritage Legacy ID: 434018

ID on this website: 101251337

Location: Brixton, Lambeth, London, SW9

County: London

District: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Coldharbour

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Angell Town St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Tagged with: Fire station

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963/18/10031 GRESHAM ROAD
25-MAY-95 84
Brixton Fire Station

Fire station, 1904-6, by the Fire Brigade Branch of the London County Council Architects Department. With minor later extensions and alterations.

MATERIALS: Red brick with stone dressings. Grey slate roof. Brick chimney stacks.

EXTERIOR: In a commanding Edwardian Baroque municipal style. The frontage to Gresham Road has seven bays and four storeys, plus an attic. A monumental impression is created through the use of rusticated stone cladding and classical features, but the subtly-projecting canted bays, tall chimneys and fine brickwork soften the effect. The stone dressings include ground floor, quoins, modillion cornice, balustrade set within a brick parapet and the central bay. The last has a triangular pediment and a large Diocletian window above the canted bay to the first and second storeys, this surmounted by a stone balustrade. The central section is flanked by three bays on either side, the central of each of these advancing in a shallow canted bay. The windows are all flat-arched, with rubbed brick arches and timber sashes; those on the first floor have ironwork along the sills. The attic dormer windows have alternate triangular- and segmental-pediments. The main entrance to the station is placed off-centre in the ground storey and has a segmental stone hood with prominent keystone. To the right, are a pair of windows with elongated keystones in the heads and the two original appliance bays; to the left, a single window and third appliance opening, this a later insertion although it is identical to the originals and is likely to be near-contemporary with them. All these openings have ornamented stone surrounds and the main appliance bays each have an inscribed timber lintel which reads, across the two bays, 'L.C.C. Fire Brigade Station Brixton' in capital letters. The doors are all modern replacements. The original iron railings on a low wall enclosing the front entrance survive.

The rear is much plainer, with no stone dressings and a blue brick plinth. There is a projecting central bay with curved parapet encasing the staircase; here the windows are strengthened by metal sills to accommodate hook ladder drills. Balconies running across the third and fourth floors, which retain their original railings, give access to firemen's quarters; the railings to the first floor balcony have been replaced by a plastic covering. There is also a single-storey section, part of the original build, to the left of the elevation. The single storey section to the right is a later extension. There is a row of stores and a larger outbuilding, formerly a long ladder shed, in the station yard; these are both original and included in the listing although the ladder shed's run out to Station Road has been in-filled. A small section of the floor in the ladder shed is surfaced in original ironstone blocks, one of the few surviving sections of this material which originally covered the yards and appliance bays in the majority of fire stations.

INTERIOR: The appliance room has modern floor surfaces but retains the original glazed brick walls, although these have been painted, and the original timber door to the rear access. There is an office to the rear, where formerly there were stables, but the four openings to the stalls are in evidence, although they have been filled in. To the side, the watch-room, with a large segmental-arched window, overlooks the appliance room. The plan form of the ground floor is largely intact with corridors divided by round-headed arches leading to the stairwell, a waiting room, the watch room and the former billiards room, now the gym. Most of the glazed brick which lines the corridors and the stairwell has been painted. The sliding pole chambers have their original doors and the staircase retains its metal balustrade and ladder to the roof. The first floor, formerly the station officer's quarters and a dormitory with cubicles for six single firemen, has been altered but retains one timber fireplace surround. The second, third and fourth floors, formerly flats for nine married firemen, survive to a greater degree. The plan form, of individual flats with a shared bathroom on each floor, is readable and there are surviving doors and fireplace surrounds in the rooms, all in simple designs.

HISTORY: The first fire stations in the mid-C19 were in the Gothic style typical of Victorian municipal buildings. The 1880s saw a move towards bolder architectural statements with applied decoration and compositional quirkiness. It was the building boom of the 1890s - 1900s, however, that was to transform fire station architecture and give the Brigade its most characterful buildings. By 1889 the Fire Brigade was part of London County Council and from 1896 new stations were designed by a group of architects led by Owen Fleming and Charles Canning Winmill, both formerly of the LCC Housing Department. They brought the highly-experimental methods which had evolved for designing new social housing to the Fire Brigade Division, as the department was called from 1899, and drew on a huge variety of influences to create unique and commanding stations, often built to a bespoke design and plan. Some of the stations built in this period retained the arrangement of earlier stations, whereby accommodation for firemen was in flats above the appliance bays, accessed via external balconies from a projecting central staircase bay. Yet while derivative in plan, the treatment of the façades of these stations was always distinctive. Brixton is an excellent example, where the monumental Edwardian Baroque style is deployed to great effect. It indicates the civic character of Brixton that had developed towards the end of the C19, when the area became a popular shopping centre and the location for a Tate Library and Lambeth Town Hall (both Grade II).

This station at Brixton replaced an earlier station at Ferndale Road, which still survives. It was formally declared open by the Chairman of the Fire Brigade Committee on 26 July 1906.

SOURCES: 'New Fire Station for Brixton', Fire and Water (September, 1906), 101
Historic photographs held by the London Fire Brigade Museum
Andrew Saint, 'London's Architecture and the London Fire Brigade, 1866-1938' (Heinz Gallery RIBA, Exhibition Catalogue, 1981)
John B Nadal, London's Fire Stations (Huddersfield, 2006)
Will Reading, 'L.C.C. Fire Stations, 1896-1916, their History, Condition and Future Use' (Architectural Association, Graduate School, 2007)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: Brixton Fire Station is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* of special architectural interest as one of a remarkable series of fire stations built by the LCC between 1896-1914, each executed to a bespoke design, which are widely admired as being among the most accomplished achievements of this exceptionally rich and prolific period of LCC civic architecture;
* of special architectural interest for its imposing Edwardian Baroque façade, created through the use of rusticated stone cladding and classical features, which connects the station with the emerging civic identity of Brixton;
* the subtle softening of this effect through the gently-projecting canted bays, tall chimneys and fine brickwork creates a design of considerable character, and indicates the station's historic function as a home for fire-fighters, as well as a municipal building;
* It exhibits the quality of materials and attention to detail which are the hallmarks of LCC design.

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