Preservation Through Operation

200th Anniversary of James Braidwood in Fortrose.

Photos from the 200th Anniversary of James Braidwood in Fortrose.


James Braidwood (1800–1861) was a Scottish firefighter who was the first “Master of Engines”, in the world’s first municipal fire service in Edinburgh in 1824.


He was born in Edinburgh, the tenth child of Janet Mitchell and Francis James Braidwood, a cabinetmaker. The family lived in College Street next to the University of Edinburgh. By 1810 the family owned an upholstery firm, Braidwood and Son, in Adam Square and were living in Roxburgh Square. James was educated at the High School in Edinburgh, east of his home.


He was the first director of the London Fire Engine Establishment (the brigade which was eventually to become the London Fire Brigade). He is credited with the development of the modern municipal fire service.


On 22 June 1861 Braidwood died in the Tooley Street fire at Cotton’s Wharf near London Bridge station when a falling wall crushed him, three hours after the fire began. It took two days to recover his body. His heroism led to a massive funeral on 29 June in which the funeral cortege stretched 1.5 miles (2.4 km) behind the hearse, a public spectacle almost equal to the fire itself. The fire, which continued to burn for a fortnight, caused damage valued at £2,000,000, equivalent to £235,740,000 in 2023 and was considered the worst fire since the Great Fire of London in 1666.


Braidwood is buried at Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, London, not far from the Stoke Newington Fire Station. The grave lies on a path edge towards the south, rendering it relatively easy to see in this congested and overgrown cemetery. His wife, Mary Ann Jane Braidwood (1806–1871) was buried with him. He was also buried near his stepson, also a fireman, who had died six years earlier.


The grave was long lost to public view but in 1981, following much research by the then Stoke Newington Fire Station White Watch Station Officer, Liam Hackett, the precise location of the grave was found. Hackett then spent the rest of the summer clearing the site and restoring the lettering on the monument.


North East Scottish Fire Heritage Trust  Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Scottish Fire Brigades Heritage Trust Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage Lord Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty Cromarty Fire And Rescue Service Fortrose and Rosemarkie Community Council

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