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Statue of James Braidwood in the Royal Mile of Edinburgh, July 2008

James Braidwood (1800–1861) founded the world's first municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824, and was the first director of the London Fire Engine Establishment (the brigade which was eventually to become the London Fire Brigade). [1] and is credited with the development of the modern municipal fire service.[2]

Memorial to James Braidwood at Abney Park Cemetery (photo:2007)

He was born in Edinburgh the tenth child of Francis James Braidwood a cabinetmaker, and Janet Mitchell. He was educated at the Royal High School. He learned about the construction of buildings after joining his father's building firm as an apprentice, knowledge he later put to use in fire fighting. He was distinguished for his heroism on the occasion of great fires in Edinburgh (1824) and London (1830). He also undertook a pastoral role, introducing visits to ordinary firemen and their families by the London City Mission.

On 22 June 1861 his life was claimed in the Tooley Street fire [3] at Cotton's Wharf near London Bridge Station when a falling wall crushed him to death. It took two days to recover his body and his heroism led to a massive funeral on 29 June, a public spectacle equal almost to the Tooley Street fire itself [4], which continued to burn for a fortnight and causing ₤2,000,000 damage. A London fireboat was named in his honour in the 1930s.

James Braidwood is buried at Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, London, within sight of the Stoke Newington Fire Station.

New Memorial, 2008

On the 5th of September 2008, the James Braidwood memorial statue in Parliament Square, Edinburgh was unveiled by Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, Principal of Edinburgh University. [5]. A fund had been established for a £75,000 memorial to Braidwood, to be created by the Glasgow sculptor, Kenneth Mackay, led by Dr Frank Rushbrook CBE, 93-year-old former Firemaster at Lothian & Borders Fire Brigade. The bronze plaque on the statue reads:

Photograph of the new statue of the firemaster James Braidwood on the day of its unveil taken on 5 Sept 2008. The person at the foot of the statue in dark suit is Dr Frank Rushbrook CBE - main sponsor of the statue
James Braidwood

1800 - 1861
Father of the British Fire Service
This statue is dedicated to the memory of James Braidwood, a pioneer of the scientific approach to fire-fighting. It also recognises the courage and sacrifice of fire-fighters, not only in Lothian & Borders Fire and Rescue Service, but all over the world.

TRIVIA -He is the great great great grandfather of the famous Ella Braidwood -He is also the great great great grandfather of the adopted Joel Braidwood who currently is residing in a slum -Adding on to this he is the great great great grandfather of Luke Braidwood renowned for his curly wurly hair -He is the great great grandfather of Julian Braidwood and has the same nose and "lump" just like him!


  1. ^ London Fire Brigade website
  2. ^ The foundations of the modern fire service, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service
  3. ^ London Fire Brigade website, Tooley Street Fire
  4. ^ Edinburgh University profile of James Braidwood
  5. ^ 'No bells and no whistles for 'father of firefighting', The Scotsman 26 July 2008

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopædia.



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