‘Lost’ Victorian Fire Engine Returns to Blenheim Palace

Jul 13 2021

A ‘lost’ horse-drawn Victorian Merryweather fire engine that was part of Blenheim Palace’s private fire brigade is set to return to the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site on Wednesday 14th July.

Its re-appearance marks the end of a years-long hunt for the historic engine, which will now take pride of place as part of a new exhibition in the Palace’s stable yard, alongside two other manual fire engines dating back to the early 18th century.

The engine is being returned to the Palace by Hook Norton firefighter Nigel Matthews, who is a fire engine enthusiast and is transporting all three of the engines for free.

He will be joined by Chris Wilson, a local fire officer in Oxfordshire who is the brigade historian and used his network of contacts nationally to locate the fire engine, and Neil McElvenny, a senior officer in Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, who also helped in the search.

To mark the ceremony local firefighters and engines will be at the Palace to welcome the engine home.

Blenheim Palace incorporated its own brigade in the mid to late 1800s and owned a variety of fire appliances, including the Merryweather.

Believed to have been built by Merryweather & Sons in 1890, the horse-drawn engine used a steam boiler to create pressure to pump water. It was mounted on a four-wheeled sprung carriage.

After many years of operation, the engine was taken out of service and showcased at various Victorian steam shows around the country before settling at Shipston Fire Station then Nuneaton.

In 2018 Blenheim Palace’s Operations Director, Heather Carter, launched a nationwide search to track the engine down and return it to the Palace.

“It’s fantastic we will finally be able to welcome the Merryweather engine home and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in tracking it down and bringing it back to us.

“In particular Nigel, Chris and Neil who have been so supportive and enthusiastic throughout the long search.

“Blenheim’s fire engine will provide a fascinating insight into the history of the Palace and it’s a perfect addition to our new Stables Exhibition, which focuses on the vital role horses have played at the Estate over the centuries,” she added.

In 1898 the Estate was the venue of a Fire Brigades Rally. Permission to stage the event was given by the 9th Duke of Marlborough (1871 – 1934) who was also the President of the National Fire Brigades Union at the time.

The Blenheim fire brigade was still in operation during the Second World War.


Issued on behalf of Blenheim Palace. For more information please contact Samantha Vaughan on 07469 129743 or SVaughan@blenheimpalace.com or Niamh O’Sullivan at NO’Sullivan@blenheimpalace.com.

MEDIA OPPORTUNITY: The Merryweather engine returning to Blenheim Palace accompanied by firefighters in Victorian dress uniform.

DATE: Wednesday, 14th July
TIME: 2pm
VENUE: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire


About Blenheim Palace

Home to the Dukes of Marlborough since 1705, Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Set in over 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland and designed by
Vanbrugh in the Baroque style, it was financed by Queen Anne, on behalf of a grateful nation, following the first Duke of Marlborough’s triumph over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Today it houses one of the most important and extensive collections in Europe, which includes portraits, furniture, sculpture and tapestries.

Blenheim Palace is also the birthplace of one of Britain’s most famous leaders, Sir Winston Churchill, and it was his father who described the vista on entering the Estate from the village of Woodstock as the ‘finest view in England’.