Worlds First Steam Fire Engine

Innovation in fire fighting had so far been absent in Liverpool but all that changed in 1831 when a 3 barrel steam powered pump, the first steam fire engine to be bought in the world was purchased from Messrs Braithwaite & Ericsson of New Road, London.

Braithwaite Steam Engine 1831

It was the Liverpool Dock Committee which bought the engine 4th the partners had made, the others being experimental models; it was a 15hp model with a 3 barrel pump. It had double horizontal cylinders and three pumps driven by gearing from the crankshaft of the engine so as to reduce the speed at which the pump operated. The cost was said to be £1,200.

On October 19th the final instalment of £278-17s-5d is recorded as having been paid.

On 24 May 1833 The engine attended a fire, some 5 hours after it was discovered, involving Birkett & Dovers Warehouse on Gibraltar Row, next to Princes Dock. The warehouse contained cotton, palm oil and sugar. The steamer was used to pump water from the dock to supply the manual engine of the Norwich Union Brigade.

The twin drawbacks of the steamer were in the main negated as there was an unlimited supply of water on the docks and the area was flat so its weight did not matter so much.

Braithwaite Steam Engine 1831

There is no record of this engine being passed-on to the Fire Police when they were formed in 1834.It had not been used much used for firefighting and it ended its days sited on a caisson on the dockside, its pump used to supply fresh water to ships.

The partners tried long and hard to sell an engine to London, even loaning them one of their experimental models which performed well at the conflagration at the Palace of Westminster. They were however unsuccessful, it would be over 20 years before London had a steamer.

About Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service Heritage and Education Centre


Merseyside has a 180-year proud tradition of firefighting and has often been at the forefront of innovation and new technology during that time.

The service has memorabilia, machines and equipment from generations of firefighting and one of the largest photographic archives of any UK fire and rescue service including more than 80,000 digitised files and pictures. Why not visit our Heritage and Education Centre.

more about the Heritage Centre

Opening Times

The Heritage Centre is open to the Public Monday to Friday between 10.00 and 15.00.

It is essential that visits are pre-booked, preferably by telephone or email.

Tel: 0151 296 4714 / 4640


For reception staff if members of the public arrive at reception to visit the Heritage Centre without pre-booking please phone the centre to check staff are available.

The Heritage and Education centre is located at; Bridle Road, Bootle, L30 4YD