Sheffield has been the home of emergency services-related museums and collections since the original Sheffield Fire Museum in 1931. The original museum was the idea of Superintendent Tom Breaks and was located at the Fire Station then known as Rockingham Street Station. Some of the items from the original museum, along with the personal collection of Tom Breaks can still be seen in the museum today. In the late 1970s firefighters from South Yorkshire Fire Service started to add to and reorganise the collection that had been on display across many fire stations to reopen a Fire Service Museum here in Sheffield. The collection grew over the years and in the early 1980s relocated to its current home in the former Police, Fire and Ambulance Station at West Bar.
During the 1990s the collection developed and expanded, to include the ever growing collection of police items held by South Yorkshire Police. 2014 saw the museum's largest and most ambitious change to date by becoming the National Museum for the Emergency Services, bringing Sheffield its first national museum.
West Bar Station, completed in 1900 and designed by architect Joseph Norton, was built in an era concerned with both form and function. As a creation of the Chief Constable of Sheffield, John Jackson, and the Chief Fire Officer Superintendent William Frost, the station featured lots of cutting-edge technology such as the iconic pole drop; originally an American concept, the ‘Hales Swinging’ system and electric bells.
It was John Jackson who saw a need for one of the first combined fire, police and ambulance stations. This shared station had a layout which allocated the police the left side of the ground floor. This included four cells, 12 stables, an office, an interview room, the inspector’s office and an enquiries desk. This area is now the museum’s reception. The building itself saw service through both World Wars and survived the Sheffield Blitz; however, fragments of shrapnel and scars can still be found in the front brickwork of the building.
In the cobbled area of the building was West Bar’s ambulance, listed as ‘ambulance number two’. This would have been operated by the firefighters along with mortuary vehicles.
The remainder of the building including the engine house, first and second floors made up the fire station.