When Mrs Ann Frazier died in 1790, she left a bequest of £40 for her parish to buy a fire engine. It was built to Richard Newsham’s 1725 patent design and remained in use until 1876, when the Bristol Fire Brigade was formed.
Fighting fires before that was a community activity. The alarm was raised by ringing the church bells, and everyone would come to help. The cumbersome engine was pulled to the site of the fire by hand - a difficult job in hilly St Michael’s.
A human chain passed many leather buckets between the nearest source of water and the reservoir on the engine - it was important to keep this as full as possible.
Other people would work the rocking arms on either side of the engine to operate the pump. All this activity produced a jet of water from the top of the engine, which was directed towards the fire through a nozzle (no longer surviving).
In 1877 the engine and its buckets were abandoned in the crypt of St Michael’s church until 1914, when they were bought by the Museum.
Registration No. J967