In Case of Fire.....
The College's isolation meant that the provision of its own fire service was deemed a necessary measure. It has been asked whether Founder's Building is the most flammable building in Britain - this is highly dubious. However, there were no fire doors until the 1950s and the wooden floors were highly polished so flames would have spread very quickly down the long corridors. Careful measures were taken, including the positioning of sand filled fire buckets and long hoses in corridors.
Student fire captains and lieutenants were appointed and they arranged three fire drills per term. There were two types of drill, a wet and a chute drill.
Wet Fire Drill outside Founder's Building
(PP25 - Wet Drill)
“The staff were warned that there would be a ‘wet’ drill so that they could shut their windows, but on one occasion a lecturer was not informed that the ‘fire’ was going to be in her study. As the water was turned on someone noticed that her window was open a few inches at the bottom. By the time the water was turned off a pair of shoes near the window were soaked!” - Memories of Miss Marion Crout, RHC student 1912-1915 (reminiscences collected by Caroline Bingham - RHC RF/132/4)
Providing the College fire brigade was a great responsibility for the student fire captains, who were supposed to remain inside the building to fight the fire whilst everyone else was evacuated. Fortunately, the College never had to employ its student fire brigade in a real fire.
“On every floor, or rather on the half landing between the two flights of stairs was a fire hose. The only real chore which first-years had to endure was Fire-Drill when these hoses were unrolled and we lined up in pairs along its length. The nozzles were heavy and required two to hold them steady when the water was turned on (once a year at ‘Wet’ drill). So we practised moving up to the nozzle end under orders from the Fire Officer (a second year) every minute or so. At the end of the year there was a Fire ‘Collection’ (College term for an examination) which one had to pass to remain a fireman in your Second year. Those who did well in the exam were invited to become Fire Officers the next year, so the aim was to do neither too well nor too badly.” - Reminiscence of Mrs. K.M. Broomhall (nee Balding), RHC student 1928-1932 (reminiscences collected by Caroline Bingham - RHC RF/132/3)
Dry Chute Drill
“I was told that I must have pyjamas by Gladys (fellow student), who told me that if you come down the fire-escape you come down in a canvas chute, and that if you came down with a nightie over your head it would be very undignified! So that was one of the reasons why we wore pyjamas.” - Interview with Gladys Morris RHC student 1955-62 (reminiscences collected by Caroline Bingham - RHC RF/132/6