Originally built in the late 1670s by John Keeling in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London, the engine was acquired by the Museum of London in 1928.
Then only consisting of the central barrel and pump, it has been restored for the current exhibition, Fire! Fire!, being held to mark the 350th anniversary of the fire which wiped out much of the City of London.
Based on a 19th century photograph (pictured) which showed it still intact with undercarriage, wheels, tow bar and pumping arm, the restoration was carried out by the museum in partnership with Kent-based Croford Coachbuilders using traditional techniques and materials over a three month period.
Meriel Jeater, curator of the Fire! Fire! exhibition, said the reconstruction had revealed new insights into how the fire engine worked and shows that, weighing more than 500 kilograms without water, it would have been extremely difficult to manoeuvre along London’s narrow streets.
“Also, the relatively crude pump mechanism was only able to squirt out about six pints of water over a rather short distance, so it would have been perilously close to the flames to have had any chance of putting them out.”
Fire! Fire! can be seen at the Museum of London until 17th April. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.museumoflondon.org.uk/fire-fire.
PICTURES: © Museum of London.