Former Auxiliary Fire Service Drill Tower


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority, Fire Station, 90 Old Town, Croydon, Croydon, CR0 1AR


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Statutory Address:
London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority, Fire Station, 90 Old Town, Croydon, Croydon, CR0 1AR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Croydon (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A former Auxiliary Fire Service drill tower of around 1939.

Reasons for Designation

The former Auxiliary Fire Service drill tower of around 1939 at Old Town, Croydon, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:   Architectural interest:   *   for its striking octagonal form, concrete construction and characteristic inter-war design;   *   the building survives very well including its form, plan, fixtures and fittings;   *   it forms a counterpoint to the wider site at Croydon and was designed as part of a planned group, with the adjacent former AFS fire station.    Historic interest:   *   as a rare example of both an octagonal and a purpose-built AFS drill tower;   *   it is illustrative of the AFS role during the Second World War, including training for fire-fighting in multi-storey buildings.    


Fire fighting services were established at the Old Town site in Croydon, just before the Second World War, when a station was built for the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). Around this time a drill tower was also built, and was used throughout the Second World War for fire drill training and probably as an observation platform for fire watching. The AFS station was laid out with four, double-length appliance bays with the associated offices, control room and recreation facilities above. During the Second World War, the AFS operated from the Old Town site with a force of around 115 men and Croydon was regularly under attack during the Blitz of 1940-1941.

In 1941, legislation was enacted to bring about the National Fire Service, with the Croydon Division becoming part of Number 38 Fire Force under the control of the London Civil Defence Region. By 1944, flying-bombs and rockets were the main threat with 141 missiles landing in the borough. Post-war, the AFS was re-formed in Croydon, but no longer operated from the Old Town site.

The drill tower is no longer in operational use by the Fire Service as it is too restrictive in scale for modern fire-fighting equipment.


  A former Auxiliary Fire Service drill tower of around 1939.

MATERIALS AND PLAN: white-painted, concrete block work with metal stairs. The tower is entered on the ground floor on the north side. The east and west sides are separated by a spine wall.

EXTERIOR: the tower is formed of seven storeys and is octagonal. The five east-facing elevations alternate, having either window openings or balcony-like openings, all of which are covered by metal grilles. The tops of the window opening elevations have a stepped cornice and all elevations have timber, ladder rests. The three elevations to the western side are blind except at the top floor observation level. The tower has a flat roof which has three lightning-shaped conductors or antennae.

INTERIOR: on the ground floor there are three storerooms on the east side, separated by metal doors. To the west side there is a hallway which has two, decorative cast-iron, spiral staircases which rise to the first floor, where they terminate at slatted-timber, sliding doors. The first to the fifth floors have a landing area and a small cubicle behind each balcony opening. The landings are connected by pairs of metal ladders which have curved hand rails and rise up inside the east side of the tower. The west side of the tower is taken up by an open shaft which has a metal hoist mechanism fitted to its ceiling. This vertical space and the hoists and the metal frame which support them were most probably intended for drying the canvas hose pipes which were fitted to pre-war fire engines.  The upper floors have dry riser fittings for connecting the water supply to fire hoses and metal cleats for securing ropes. The top (sixth) floor is open plan and its window openings provide an all-round view. The ceiling has a rectangular access hatch to the flat roof.


Books and journals
Baker, E, On the Run - A History of Croydon Fire Brigade, (2003), 13-25, 47-48
Bridget, Cherry, Nikolaus, Pevsner, The Buildings of England London 2: South, (1994), 215
Historic England 6310 Ecus Report on Fire Stations 1850-1995 (March 2015)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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