STATION 35: WINDSOR

Windsor Fire Station No. 35, known at this time as Prahran No. 27. Fire Services Museum collection.

Windsor Fire Station No. 35, known at this time as Prahran No. 27. Fire Services Museum collection.

 

What is now Windsor Fire Station No. 35 in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s “D” District has its origins in the heart of Prahran. The Prahran community’s first recorded fire emergency occurred at the market on Commercial Road in 1850 when an expectant mother was badly hurt after sparks from a fire ignited the tent she was in.[1] As the population grew and incidents like this became more common, locals recognised the need for some kind of organised fire response, and in 1856 the Prahran Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed. For the first couple of years, the brigade was located at the Prahran Inn, until that was (somewhat ironically) destroyed by fire.[2] While unthinkable now, basing a fire brigade in a pub was not altogether unusual at the time, and in some instances volunteer firefighters were paid in beer.[3]

A prominent figure in the Prahran Volunteer Fire Brigade was Captain James Kelly, known as one of the early advocates for the legislation that would lead to the Fire Brigades Act of 1890. In 1891, James Kelly died a local hero due to his tireless efforts to improve fire services for his community. He had survived just long enough to see the first sitting of the new Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board, and his grave in the St Kilda cemetery is decorated with fire hose and hydrant motifs that reflect his life’s work.[4]

In 1858 the volunteer brigade was moved to a building in Greville Street, Prahran, which boasted a rickety 40-foot wooden fire tower and a derelict second-hand bell.[5] These premises were demolished in 1888 and in November 1889 a new two-storey fire station, complete with brick watchtower, was built at 44 Macquarie Street, Prahran, to house the brigade. Despite the relative grandeur of these facilities, tight access on Macquarie Street made this location impractical and in the late 1890s the station was decommissioned. This building still stands today and is a significant heritage site as the only remaining example of a purpose-built volunteer fire station that pre-dates the establishment of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) in 1891.[6]

In 1892 the newly formed MFB built a new station – then known as Station 27 – on the current Windsor Fire Station site at 156 Albert Street, Windsor. After four decades, this too was demolished and a striking new modernist building, designed by the influential architectural firm Seabrook and Fildes, was commissioned.

A display at Windsor Fire Station in 1959 as part of the Royal Women’s Hospital Mother’s Day Appeal. MM 127246, Museum Victoria Collections.

A display at Windsor Fire Station in 1959 as part of the Royal Women’s Hospital Mother’s Day Appeal. MM 127246, Museum Victoria Collections.

With accommodation for up to twelve men, the new station opened in 1941 at an estimated cost of £22,781.[7] Prior to 1950, firefighters lived on-site or adjacent to the station. Arguably, however, this meant some members had a bit too much time on their hands as Windsor firefighters were known to be regular customers at the SP bookmaker running an illegal tote at the Railway Hotel just metres from the station.[8]

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In 1997 the Albert Street station received a major upgrade. Today, Windsor Fire Station 35 is a fully equipped modern facility housing two Mk5 Pumpers and a Ladder Platform. In 2016 the station was part of a significant milestone when Senior Station Officer Bart Pribilovics celebrated a remarkable 50 years with MFB.

[1] John Butler Cooper, The History of Prahran: From its first settlement to a city, compiled 1912 and revised 1924, p. 100.
[2] Cooper, p. 157.
[3] Cooper, p. 283.
[4] Cooper, pp. 158-159.
[5] Cooper, p. 157.
[6] ‘Former Prahran Fire Station’, Victorian Heritage Database, https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4847.
[7] ‘Windsor Station “D” District’, Fire Services Museum of Victoria archives.
[8] Sally Wilde and John Butler Cooper, The History of Prahran: Volume II, 1925-1990, 1993, p. 128.