One of London’s oldest operating fire stations has been marking the 110th anniversary of its “secret” opening..

Hendon fire station in The Burroughs was opened in May 1914 without any fanfare or even a plaque to commemorate what would have been a big event.

The local press wasn’t even invited! So there were no photographs taken and nobody made a note of the date.

All that’s known is that it opened that year at a time when horse-drawn fire engines were only just being phased out.

It took another 100 years before the Barnet Times was able to record its centenary.

“Nobody made a big deal when Hendon fire station opened,” we reported on May 30, 2014.

But the story of Hendon’s emergency services goes back much further. The town had its own fire brigade as early as 1855 — the year Britain was at war in the Crimea with the Russian empire!  

Volunteers would be called out by ringing a large bell in times of emergency.

They kept their fire engine at St Mary’s Church ready for action, an arrangement lasting five decades until the brigade was formally taken over by Hendon Urban District Council in 1899.

It was not until 1911 that the fire station building started and was opened three years later, with the architecture influenced by the local council offices nearby.

It meant the firemen could live at the station, sleeping in dormitories designed as part of the building. There was a flat for the chief officer and flats for married men, with a pram store on the ground-floor for fire crews’ families.

The station officer was a proud Captain Adams, who ran it with military discipline.

The First World War broke out just months after the station opened, when it was forced to hand one of its two fire-engines to the Army.

The local MP at the time, Phillip Cunliffe-Lister, asked Parliament when the station would get its second engine back. He got his wish after the war ended in 1918.

Watchmen would sit in a tower at the top of the fire station to look for fires, a practice lasting till the early 1930s before phones became a ‘must have’ in every household.

The Hendon brigade looked after the town’s safety until the clouds of war loomed again in 1939.

A new National Fire Service set up in 1941 took over emergency services following the Blitz when all rescue resources in Britain came under government control. Hendon fire station became part of London Fire Force Area 35.

The national brigade was disbanded in 1948 and Hendon became part of the new Middlesex Fire Brigade.

The next big change was 1965 with the formation of Greater London when Middlesex ceased as a county and Hendon became part of the London Fire Brigade.    

The building was Grade II-listed in 2002 for ‘special architectural interest’ with its Tudor and Arts and Crafts grandeur.

Then came the centenary landmark in 2014, when the local press was finally invited!

The view from the watch tower was recalled by the station manager at the time, Mark Blumfield.  

“It was an amazing view of the town,” Mark told the Barnet Times. “But there would have been no time to waste. They would have had to be on their guard at all times.”

Hendon today still has its two fire engines — thanks to the local MP nagging Parliament back in 1914.

It is crewed by three eight-hour shifts round-the-clock, each with a manager, sub-officer, leading firefighter and nine firefighters on the front line responding to all emergencies like fires, flooding, traffic accidents — and probably even cats stuck up trees.