FOR more than 60 years firefighters prepared to battle raging fires and save lives in a cramped listed building in Chester.

Now the have been replaced by tables and chairs and the firefighters by diners enjoying a meal out at Chez Jules restaurant on Northgate Street.

Yesterday (Wednesday) marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the former fire station where Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service began their lifesaving service back in 1911.

Then known as the Earl of Chester’s Fire Brigade the firefighters replaced a team of volunteers who fought off flames from the picturesque timber buildings for more than 40 years.

Previously the city had been protected from flames by the police force who manned the five fire engines until 1863.

The new Northgate Street station was extremely cramped with little room for crews to manoeuvre the three horse drawn appliances and two wheeled escapes which were pushed by hand.

When the City Council took control of the brigade in 1914 the City of Chester Fire Brigade was born. A year later the service received their first motorised engine costing £1,070, which carried a 50ft wheeled escape and a 600gpm pump.

The station housed the firefighters throughout WWII where they protected the city from fires supported by a small number of sub-stations scattered around the city.

But by 1948 the fire service had expanded and it was becoming increasingly clear that the Northgate Station was too cramped, and so in 1971 the current fire station was opened by Prince Charles, where the fire service has remained ever since, protecting the city from fire.

Photographs of the former fire station will be displayed until Friday, June 24, at Chez Jules.