An application to redevelop Perry Vale fire station into flats has just been received by Lewisham Planning Department. www.sydenhamsociety.com/2010/11/perry-vale-fire-station-to-become-a-church/
Local historian, Steve Grindlay, tells the history of this distinctive building:
Before the opening of Perry Vale Fire Station on 22 March 1902 fire defence in Sydenham and Forest Hill was fairly haphazard.
From the 1860s there was a horse drawn pump based at the Crystal Palace. Beside the Bricklayers Arms there was a fixed hose, attached to a water pipe, by which “any person may direct water in abundance”. There was also a fire escape (a cart with a ladder fixed to it to rescue people from burning buildings) next to the Woodman. In 1872 a volunteer fire service was formed in Forest Hill, but it was severely constrained and constantly in debt because it depended entirely on voluntary contributions.
After its creation in 1889 the London County Council began building fire stations across London. The earlier buildings were Victorian Gothic but by 1900 the Arts and Crafts style predominated. Building began on the Perry Vale fire station in 1901; the foundation stone was laid on 4 July 1901. The architect was most probably Charles Canning Winmill, the LCC Fire Brigade Department’s principal architect. The building is considered a particularly fine example of an early arts and crafts fire station.
The building was designed to house 12 firemen and their families. The 1911 census has 10 firemen, 2 coachmen (who drove the appliances and cared for the horses) and their families, a total of 50 people living in the station. The reason the accommodation was provided was because the firemen were on call 24 hours a day. This system ended in the early 1920s when shift work was introduced and the firemen had a fixed working week.
At the time the Perry Vale station opened there were two basic types of fire appliance: the pump, for extinguishing fires, and the escape with a ladder for rescuing people. The familiar dual-purpose fire engine, with both a pump and ladder, was introduced in 1934, partly for greater efficiency, and partly as an economy (reducing staff numbers).
When the new Forest Hill Fire Station on Stanstead Road opened in 1972 the Perry Vale Fire Station closed. In March 1973, within a year of closure, it was listed Grade II. Since the building closed as a fire station it has been used by the Council as a housing office and for temporary accommodation. In 2008 the Council decided that the building was surplus to its requirements, and put it up for sale.
Nikolaus Pevsner described the Perry Vale Fire Station as “an especially picturesque example of its type”. Recent surveys make it clear that although there have been internal changes, some original features do survive. We must hope that any plans for the future of the building respect its past.