The Society was formed in 1836, after a previous attempt at setting up a similar organization had apparently been abandoned in 1828. Its original aims were: to provide a body of men and equipment (mostly forms of mobile fire escape) to be on hand to assist in rescues from fires; the examination of new inventions in, and the diffusion of information on, fire rescue and safety; and the bestowal of awards (medals, certificates or monetary gifts) for individual acts of bravery in rescuing victims from fire in London.

From 1837, under the patronage of Queen Victoria, the Society was known as the Royal Society for the Protection of Life from Fire, but on her death in 1901 royal patronage was withdrawn.

In 1867 the responsibility for the fire escapes in London was transferred to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the Society moved to provide equipment (but not manpower) to provincial towns and cities.

Until 1881 annual or biannual general meetings were usually presided over by the Lord Mayor or other dignitary (e.g. in 1856 the Duke of Wellington). In that year the Charity Commissioners were placed in charge of the appointment of trustees to run the Society, whose responsibilities were reduced merely to the granting of awards countrywide (although primarily in London).

The Society's committees originally met at a variety of locations in the City, before having a succession of bases on Ludgate Hill in the 1850s and 1860s. From 1868-73 they were based at Clifford's Inn Passage, Fleet Street; 1873-82 at 66 Ludgate Hill; 1882-1961 at 20 and then 26 New Bridge Street and from 1961 to at least 1976 at Chichester House, High Holborn.

The Society's Archives

The minutes contain brief details of many of the applications for, and grants of, awards for individual acts of bravery. The surviving annual reports give further information on these incidents where awards were granted. These are arranged as numbered cases.

The records have been catalogued, and up to and including 1998 are now available in Guildhall Library (Guildhall Library Mss 34978-84). The catalogue can now be searched online at (by entering 'Society for the Protection of Life from Fire' in an author search).

It should be noted that records of awards made after 1998 are retained by the Society.

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Last updated: 16th June 2004