'Fire in London', 1791.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Lithograph drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin for the famous three volume work 'The Microcosm of London', published by Rudolph Ackermann in 1808. The building on fire was Albion Mills, a corn mill erected by Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) at the foot of Blackfriars Bridge in 1786. The largest and best-equipped mill of its time, it was also the site of the first installation of steam power to drive machinery. Here, competing firefighting teams arrive at the scene, including some eight manual Newsham fire engines. At this time, firefighting in London was carried out almost entirely by the fire insurance companies who organised brigades to protect the properties they insured. Rival companies competed to be the first to reach a fire and secure the best supplies of water.