This magnificent machine was part of the late Michael Banfield collection which was sold in the summer of 2014. The notes below are reproduced, with thanks, from the the Bonham's auction catalogue.
Formerly the works fire engine of brewers
Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton
1913 Merryweather Fire Engine
Registration no. E 2152
Chassis no. 3507
Engine no. 1872 W
Able to trace its origins back to 1692, Merryweather & Sons is the oldest name in the manufacture of fire-fighting equipment. It was in1807 that a 14-year-old Yorkshire lad named Moses Merryweather was taken on as an apprentice by the old-established firm of fire engine makers Hadley, Simpkin & Lott, which had its roots in a maker of “fire squirts” founded in Long Acre some 25 years after the Great Fire of London: in 1836 Moses married the niece of company owner Henry Lott, and took over the company when Uncle Henry died. Always in the forefront of development, particularly after Moses’ son James Compton Merryweather took control in 1877, the year after the firm had opened a new factory in Greenwich to cope with increasing demand, Merryweather & Sons became predominant in the manufacture of fire-fighting equipment. While horse drawn steam fire engines had been the order of the day in Victorian times, Merryweather built their first self-propelled steam fire engine in 1899, and followed it with their first petrol-driven fire engine incorporating a pump, an entirely new type of machine, as early as 1904. Like all the early Merryweather motors, it had a chassis and engine built by Aster of Wembley, an offshoot of the French Aster company, whose engines were used by many early motor manufacturers. This particularly Merryweather-Aster fire engine spent many years in the service of the brewers Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton of Burton-on- Trent, though that company declared that prior to the engine coming into their possession circa 1920-21, it was believed to have been used on a local estate connected with the Bass business.
Powered by a pair-cast four-cylinder L-head Aster engine displacing 8588cc, this impressive engine has a Braidwood-type body and a Merryweather “Hatfield” pump delivering 360 to 400 gallons per minute. It is equipped with a two-section double-row trussed John Morris “Ajax” ladder extending to 30 ft. Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton sold it to Langley Mill Commercials of Nottingham for scrap in 1963, but fortunately it came to the notice of the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club and Michael Banfield immediately paid a deposit of £10 to save it. The purchase was completed and the Merryweather acquired on 9 September that year. Back at Nunhead Lane, it was completely stripped down and meticulously restored to 1913 specification. This included making a new set of solid-tyred wooden wheels to replace the pneumatic-tyre wheels fitted during World War Two. Some of the missing parts came from the stores at Bass, Ratcliff & Gretton, others were located by a diligent search. Its first public outing was the 1966 HCVC London-Brighton Run, when it not only won first prize in the fire engine class, but also won the trophy for the best pre-1919 vehicle and was declared outright winner of the concours d’elegance. “It was just impossible to fault any part of this fabulous rebuild,” wrote Bill Boddy of Motor Sport. Almost 50 years on, this magnificent pre-World War One fire engine still lives up to Bill Boddy’s accolade: it is, quite simply, fabulous.