His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex officially opened Newsham Court, the new headquarters of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS), on Tuesday 8 September.
The Earl was received by James Puxley, Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, before being introduced to David Bertie, High Sheriff of Berkshire, Cllr Peter Argyle, Chairman of West Berkshire Council, Margaret Argyle, Chairman’s Lady, Cllr Colin Dudley, Chairman of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, and Andy Fry, RBFRS’ Chief Fire Officer.
His Royal Highness then viewed a display of some of RBFRS’ specialist appliances, including the Animal Rescue, Water Rescue and Heavy Rescue Units. The Earl talked to each of the crews about their roles, while Station Commander Jeremy James explained how each of the appliances is used and detailed their technical capabilities.
The Earl was then given a live demonstration of a rescue of a ‘casualty’ from a realistic road traffic collision scenario by RBFRS’ competition rescue team, while Group Manager Lloyd Palmer gave a step-by-step explanation of the operation.
After meeting Pauline Helliar-Symons, Vice Chair of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, Trevor Ferguson, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Paul Southern, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, and Anne-Marie Scott, Director of People and Organisational Development, the Earl toured the headquarters.
During the tour, the Earl was introduced to staff from RBFRS’ community safety and commercial fire safety departments, before being given a tour of the Thames Valley Fire Control Service, the shared emergency Control centre for Royal Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire and Rescue Services, which is located in Newsham Court.
Children from a local school, Calcot Junior School, who were involved in determining the name of the new headquarters, were among the special guests at the official opening ceremony. To help the children, Prevention staff and fire crews had previously visited the school to give the children an insight into RBFRS, including the service’s history and broad range of work.
A number of suggestions were then put forward for RBFRS staff to vote on and Newsham Court was chosen in honour of Richard Newsham, the English inventor of a manual fire pump that significantly improved firefighting capability. Newsham patented his invention in 1725 and supplied the first working example to the Parish of Bray in Berkshire.
His Royal Highness presented an award to former Calcot Junior School pupil, 12-year-old Aaron Roper, who put forward the winning name, before unveiling a commemorative plaque to officially mark the opening of Newsham Court.
Chairman of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority Councillor Colin Dudley said: “It was a great honour to have His Royal Highness at the official opening of Newsham Court. It marked a special day at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, one that everyone will remember for many years.”
Chief Fire Officer Andy Fry said: “We were delighted to welcome His Royal Highness to Newsham Court and it was a great honour to show him around our new headquarters. The Earl was very interested in the variety of work we do and he took the time to talk to several members of staff about their roles and find out how these contribute to the safety of everyone who lives in, works in or travels through Berkshire.
“Our previous headquarters was cramped and dilapidated, required rewiring and had very poor environmental standard. The building was suffering from extensive ‘concrete cancer’ and was rapidly nearing the end of its working life. Newsham Court has provided an improved working environment for staff – it is more spacious, lighter and has surrounding countryside. It is a modern headquarters that reflects the innovative approach we will take to help the people of Berkshire lead safe and fulfilling lives.
The original building was around 25 years old when RBFRS bought it and it was then refurbished to bring it up to the required standard. Newsham Court has required a total investment of around £4 million.
Staff relocated to the new headquarters in October 2014.
For more information, go to www.rbfrs.co.uk