Reply To: Fire-engines aboard RN ships in 18th-19th centuries

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Tony Beales

Jekyll’s invention added a removable air vessel (or pressure chamber) to a ship’s common hand pump by closing the top of the pump with a copper and brass cover, through which the ‘pump spear’ passed, thus requiring no change to the lever mechanism. The pump could be used as a normal hand pump by removing the cover.
A detailed description and diagrams (including the receiver to combine three hoses, mentioned in Justin’s post) can be found in The Operative Mechanic, and British Machinist, volume 1, 1831 edition, by John Nicholson, pages 270-273. See:
Campbell’s Lives of the British Admirals dates the adoption of Jekyll’s pumps as 1811, which more or less ties in with the ADM references you have. Lieutenant John Jekyll was promoted Commander on 21 March 1812 – I wonder whether that was as a reward.
Previously in 1796 the Admiralty asked Samuel Bentham to report on “a proposal of Mr. Taylor’s respecting a forcing pump, and the substitution on board ship of leather hose, in lieu of the usual wooden pump-dales…”
The report included consideration of “the important purpose of extinguishing fire”
See The Mechanics Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette, vol LVI, 1852 page 406 (The Economy of Keeping Ready)
The National Archives catalogue throws up a number of earlier references to fire engines (or water engines):

ADM 354/126/101: “Thomas Corbett. Captain Windham of the Lenox has suggested that fire engines are supplied to Naval vessels. Such equipment was given to Sir Cloudesley Shovell who never used it and the experiment has not been repeated. 1744 July 9.”
ADM 106/1031/92: “Commodore Legge, Portsmouth. Request for water engines for the Captain and Sunderland. 1746 Nov 27.”
ADM 106/1036/214: “John Sargent, Deptford. Has sent water engines to Portsmouth in the Captain and Sunderland. 1746 Oct 23.”
ADM 106/1048/102: “Captain Rowzier of the Swallow Sloop at Sheerness. Asks for a water engine. 1747 July 16.”
ADM 106/1085/153: “Sheerness Officers. Request for a water engine for the Somerset 30 June 1750.”
ADM 106/1126/4: “Portsmouth Officers. Proposal to retain the Water Engines and hoses on ships laid up, to assist in accidental fires on board the ships and, if they were lodged in the steerage, to help other ships. 8 Jan 1763.”
ADM 354/147/53: “Copy letter from Mr Bateley, Assistant to the Surveyor of the Navy to the Navy Board. Have viewed the water engine from Messrs. Tuite, Donaldson and Spivey and made a construction suitable to the well of a 40-gun ship. Report on their performance and comparison with the use of chain pumps. 1753 Feb 9.”
ADM 106/1191/105: “Portsmouth Officers. Engines are to be continued on ships in Ordinary until the hurry in laying up the Fleet is over. Ask if others will replace those unfit for service. By the order of September 1749, engines are allowed to all Guardships in case of fire. 1770 June 13.”
ADM 106/1188/179: “Commissioner Richard Hughes, Portsmouth. Receipt of letter … and not to supply the ships in Ordinary with engines in lieu of those which become unserviceable. 1770 June 17.”
ADM 106/1190/273: “Plymouth Officers. Ask for black links, sheathing board, sheathing nails and ordinary deals to be ordered from the contractors and what stores are due from Mrs. Crowley. There are only 4 ship’s engines in store which need repair and ask for 6 or 8 for the ships fitting out. 1770 Oct 26.”
Tony Beales