The world’s first municipal fire service (public, and government-funded) was founded in 1824 in Edinburgh, under the leadership of James Braidwood. Before the establishment of the service, firefighting was often privatized and buildings that were uninsured, or insured by the “wrong” company, would often be left to burn. Among the innovations developed by the Edinburgh service were Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and military-style training that ensured firefighters were in top shape physically and mentally to deal with fires as a team.
Given the country’s history with fire, including the Great Edinburgh Fire and Braidwood’s team, as well as the infamous 1960 Cheapside Street Fire in Glasgow, Scotland had long aimed to pay tribute to its firefighters with a museum. The Edinburgh force offered tours and information since the 1960s, establishing its first dedicated collection in the ’80s.
Growing into a museum, it eventually found a home at the McDonald Road Community Fire Station. After a multi-year closure in the early 2020s, it reopened in its own dedicated space in July 2023. With this reopening, it now features several early firefighting vehicles from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as equipment worn by both human and canine firefighters, and even “trauma teddies” (plush toys given to distressed children after receiving assistance from firefighters).
Braidwood eventually assisted in creating a similar service in London. He died during a fire in the British capital in 1861. Given his importance to the history of firefighting, the museum also features artifacts related to his life. With in-depth explanations of the evolution of firefighting over the last couple of centuries, along with interactive exhibits and a human perspective, aided by its volunteer staff of active and retired firefighters, the museum greatly succeeds in highlighting the merits of this crucial profession.
Know Before You Go
Free entrance, suggested donation £3. Open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, with a winter closure of about a month in December-January (exact dates on website).
With child-sized replicas of firefighting uniforms and interactive features, the museum is great for families.