An old fire station which was left untouched for more than 60 years has been discovered in the cellar of an old Co Op factory.
The secret fire station is complete with 1920s firefighting equipment, pumps, uniforms and coiled hoses.
A half-drunk bottle of lemonade and exercise programmes were also found in the cellar of the former Co Op factory in Dudley, West Mids.
Staff at shopfitting company The Allan Nuttall Partnership, which is now based in the building, heard rumours of a hidden fire station but dismissed it as an “urban myth”.
But when marketing manager Anna Bramford dug out some keys she was astonished to find fire regalia and pumps dating back to the 1920s.
She said: “It was just amazing.
“There are people who have been on this site for 30 or so years who had never heard of it. People just thought it was an urban myth. No-one’s actually been down there until now.
“When I walked in I just couldn’t believe it. It looks like they just finished work one day and then never came back, it really is a time capsule. It’s the little things, like a half-drunk bottle of lemonade and exercise programmes that show how they used to compete in games with other services.
“This year we are celebrating our 50th anniversary of being in business and we thought we’d explore more of the buildings rooms which have never been opened. No one expected to find anything of much interest but the secret fire station is a treasure trove of old artefacts.”
The jackets and caps were completely intact and hung on pegs with names scrawled above them in chalk, such as I Silk, W Price and A Round.
There are rolled-up canvas hoses and a single gas-mark on the green-painted wall, as well as a huge diesel-powered pump. On another wall hangs a certificate handed to one of the men when the Dudley Brigade entered competitions with other forces.
Miss Bramford added: “It’s just amazing to think this has been down here all along and no-one’s seen it.
“This is a very large site and the station is hidden in a sort of cave underneath, so it’s hard to find. We think it might have been an air raid shelter before.”
The original building was a munitions factory built in 1916 by order of Prime Minister Lloyd George as part of the war effort. The fire station would have been a working part of the munitions factory before being sold after the war ended.
Factories of a certain size were obliged by law to have their own working firefighting crew should a blaze break out in the workshop so the station continued to operate.
In 1935 the building was sold to Bean Cars before a shelving company that was part of the Co Op group took it over in the 1940s. Historians believe the Co Op group added their insignia – CWP – to the fire uniforms when they moved into the premises in the 1940s.
Nuttall’s, which is renovating the site to celebrate 50 years in business, bought the factory in 1986.
Miss Bramford added: “Now we want advice from experts as to what to do with it. We don’t know whether we should give it away or keep it as a time capsule.
“We really want to get the fire hose working too.
“The most impressive piece in there is the pump trailer, powered by a petrol or diesel engine. Still bright red, with ‘CWS DUDLEY’ lettered in gold on the front, it looks as though all it needs is a bit of a wipe down.
“There’s still air in its tyres and just a few spots of oil on the floor beneath. I heard some of the older employees here saying they could remember when the Co-op fire services held their inter-force games here.
“It really is amazing to see it all documented inside the room which has been left completely undisturbed for more than half a century.”