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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 ACC/1730
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1906-1980
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 3.53 linear metres
Name of creator(s): London Fire Brigade Widows and Orphans Fund


Administrative/Biographical history:

The London Fire Brigade Widows and Orphans Fund came into existence in 1882. It was known in the Brigade as "The Captain's Club" as a tribute to the then Chief Officer of the Brigade, and originator of the Fund, Sir Eyre Massey Shaw. The impetus for its creation was provided by a donation of 600 from a Miss C. Morris in 1880. There was also the need to administer the money contributed by the public and members of the Fire Brigade following the deaths of firemen whilst on duty.

In the first year the members (about 520) paid 6d per week. On retirement the benefit was 2 a year for each year served, plus a further death benefit if membership was continued. If a fireman was killed on duty the widow received 50 plus a pension of 2 per month. Large donations from the public were needed to maintain these grants.

By 1901 the subscription was increased to one shilling per week but to maintain the Fund public donations were still required. Fund raising was vigorously undertaken by the trustees of the Club and benefits were amended. The widow's pension of 2 ceased after five years of receipt. The death benefit remained at 50 and assistance with funeral costs up to 7.10.0. was given. The Brigade's need for donations became well known and money came in from all sources, including annual donations from King Edward VII and the future George V. The Sovereign has continued to act as Patron of the Fund.

The Committee of the Club originally consisted of the Chief Officer of the London Fire Brigade as President or Chairman, other senior officers and the trustees. The men were represented by members from the station at each Annual General Meeting.

At this time the Club was the only form of welfare and benevolence in the Brigade. Convalescent holidays were arranged for sick and injured men and in 1911 the first steps towards looking after orphans in a specialised way were taken. Following the death of a fireman with several children the Committee put the benefit to an annuity of ten shillings a week. This matured nineteen years later when the youngest child reached the age of 21. It was not until twenty five years later that a weekly allowance was made to orphans.

When the subscription proved to much for members (especially retired members) to afford, it was deemed acceptable to pay half or quarter of the total amount. Half and quarter benefits were paid for these reduced subscriptions. In certain cases the Committee waived payment altogether, especially when young children were in need.

During the years of the First World War the members demanded better representation on the Committee. The issue was considered and it was decided that a member from each of the six areas be voted on to the Committee.

By the end of the war the Club was responsible for 45,400 and membership was in the region of 1600.

In 1919 the Emergency Fund was instituted. The Committee was free to administer the funds to the best advantage and give aid as soon as it was needed, without being bound by any restrictions.

The Retirement Fund was another scheme for which the Club Committee was responsible. It started about 1916 and collapsed, being revived again in 1919. A lump sum equal to the week's takings was given to each member as he retired. The Fund cost 6d to join. It was disbanded in the 1950s by which time the original membership of 700 had risen to 1500.

The 1920s and 1930s were times of hardship for many, and this, added to an increase in the Brigade's establishment, meant that there were frequent calls on the Club's resources. The Distress Fund was formed in the mid 1930s to provide a means whereby money could be borrowed to clear debts and then be paid back without incurring interest. The Sub-Committee controlling this Fund consisted of a principal officer, a superintendent and two elected representatives.

The first full-time paid official was instituted in the 1930s. From 1 July 1933 the Secretary, Mr. W.G. Coles, who had been honorary since 1915, was paid a salary of 300 per annum.

The Club was responsible for maintaining the "Fireman's Corner" at Highgate Cemetery. In 1934 they paid for a memorial to be erected in honour of the 97 men who were buried there.

The Second World War saw a rise in the number of orphans receiving allowances. During the war the membership of the Club became dispersed. Auxiliary Fire Service and the National Fire Service personnel were not allowed to join as they were not members of the London Fire Brigade. Subscription collection became increasingly difficult and quarterly payment instead of weekly was introduced.

The National Fire Service formed its own Benevolent Fund in the 1940s. The Club feared a takeover attempt but this did not come to pass and at the end of the war the NFS was wound down. In common with other organisations the Committee of the Club found themselves preparing for the future in a country whose social patterns had been irrevocably altered by the war. In May 1945 a special sub-committee was set up to vet the rules and set future policy. The Secretary was joined by another paid official, the Assistant Secretary. A new Rules Sub-Committee was formed and changed the formation of the Committee to elected representatives from each division plus senior officer ranks.

In 1959 the Club became a Friendly Society to save tax. This idea had been mooted several times before (during the two world wars for example) but the Committee had decided that at times of national emergency it was its patriotic duty to pay income tax.

By 1961 there were approximately 2000 active and 1500 retired members. The orphans numbered 63.

In 1965 the Club was united with the West Ham Widows and Orphans Fund. In 1970 the Club handed over responsibility for Fireman's Corner, Highgate Cemetery to the Brigade's Welfare Section. Also in 1970-1971, following the decimalization of currency and in an attempt to counter the rise in inflation which was devaluing the benefit payment of 200, a "new scheme" was introduced. Units of 15p were paid weekly giving benefits subject to a person's age on joining.

In the 1980s the active membership stood at 2805 with 1083 retired members. 32 orphans received a benefit allowance of 1.00 per week plus a Christmas bonus of 15.00. Payment of death benefit could be obtained from holding a maximum of ten units. The existence of the Club was bought to the attention of all new recruits and they were entitled to join at any time up to the age of 45 years.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the London Fire Brigade Widows and Orphans Fund, including minutes; annual reports; rules; subcription books; cash books; retirement fund accounts; and distress fund accounts.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

ACC/1730-1: Administration; ACC/1730-2: Finance.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records deposited by the Secretary of the London Fire Brigade Widows and Orphans Fund, London Fire Brigade Headquarters, 8 Albert Embankment, SE1 7SD, on 14 January 1982.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
June to August 2010.

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