HERITAGE campaigners have launched a last-ditch plea to save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire as brigade bosses prepare to sell off the building – the UK’s last-surviving Victorian fire station.
The museum celebrates the Capital’s unique place in the history of firefighting going back to James Braidwood, who founded the world’s first municipal fire brigade in Edinburgh in 1824.
And it boasts an extensive collection of vintage fire engines and other artefacts in the former Central Fire Station in Lauriston Place. But the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has put the building up for sale as part of a cost-cutting exercise and it is understood a closing date for offers has been set for tomorrow.
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, said: “Everybody is devastated. There is an incredible pride that this is where it all started and it will be an awful loss if it is sold for flats – but no-one is listening.”
And she dismissed SFRS plans to relocate the museum elsewhere. “The whole point of it is being where it is. You can’t just throw it into some other building. It belongs there.”
She warned the building’s Grade A status would limit its potential for buyers.
“It’s a listed building and it has to retain its integrity, so it’s not an easy building to convert into anything else – so its value on the market will reflect that.
“It means that for some small killing, they are going to destroy something that’s a real gem for Edinburgh.”
Dr Peter Burman, an architectural and cultural historian and former director of conservation at the National Trust for Scotland, said he was passionate about saving the museum.
“Edinburgh is absolutely the right place in Britain to have a Museum of Fire, both because of James Braidwood and because of the way, through him, Edinburgh and then London led the world in evolving methodologies by which city fires large and small could be contained and vanquished.”
Dr Burman, a retired professor and trustee of Save Britain’s Heritage, said: “It is the relative frequency of fire in the history of towns and cities and the rarity of museums dealing with this topic which puts the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh into a very special category of high significance.”
He said it was remarkable that the museum drew visitors from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, the United States and Canada.
“The building is a very fine example of the sort of ‘local authority’ architecture which was commissioned for UK cities at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century.
“The building is superbly appropriate for the present museum collection and interpretation as there is such a strong emotional and social connection between the collection and the original and enduring purpose of the building; moreover the building embodies the powerful memories of the firemen who have served there in the past.”
A spokesman for the SFRS said it planned to announce details of a new home for the museum soon.