National Emergency Services Museum

Sheffield, England

Celebrating Sheffield’s heroes at the National Emergency Services Museum.

Discover the National Emergency Services Museum

As an independent, self-funded museum and charity, the National Emergency Services Museum (NESM) in Sheffield, is committed to celebrating the bravery and dedication of emergency service workers and their communities. Originally established as the Sheffield Fire and Police Museum in 1984, this institution was renamed the National Emergency Services Museum on 1st January 2014.

Inside the museum, which is housed within a police and fire station built in 1900, there are over 600,000 objects waiting to be viewed. Vintage police cars, life-saving medical equipment, and firefighting archives are just some of them. Climb aboard a real fire engine, explore life during World War II, and even meet real-life Victorian criminals. With three floors filled with exhibits and activities, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

The National Emergency Services Museum's Historic Setting

In its early years, the combined police, fire, and ambulance station’s top floor provided living quarters for firefighters. With firefighters living on-site during their shifts, the station became more than just a workplace—it became a home. This home also housed stables for police and fire horses, since they were the main method of transportation during the early 20th century.

As the demand for ambulance services increased over the years, changes at the station were important, glass roofs and other alterations were made to accommodate motor vehicles. But by 1913 it was time to relocate the ambulance service, as they outgrew the space.

Sheffield's National Emergency Services Museum
Worn Stairs at the National Emergency Services Museum - Alex Liivet

Despite this shift, the fire service continued to operate from the premises until 1924, grappling with space constraints and the challenges posed by using an outdated means of transportation, given the rise of motor vehicles.

The departure of the fire service marked a significant turning point for the station. This is because it highlighted the limitations of the station’s infrastructure and its inability to keep up with modern advancements.

Meanwhile, the police remained a steadfast presence at the building until 1965. During the Sheffield Blitz, the station once again became a vital base for emergency response, with the former engine house repurposed into a temporary fire station.

Creating the National Emergency Services Museum

Founding Vision

In 1931, Superintendent Tom Breaks decided to embark on a quest to establish a dedicated museum for the fire service in Sheffield. Recognising the significance of embracing history to propel modernisation, Breaks laid the foundation for what would evolve into today’s National Emergency Services Museum.

Despite interruptions during World War II, where the collection was temporarily stored, Breaks persevered. In the 1970s, Sheffield firefighters revived the museum, resulting in its modest establishment at the Division Street fire station. However, by the 1980s, the museum had outgrown its space, leading to a search for a larger venue.

Growth and Renaming

With a lot of support from firefighters, families, and community members, the museum relocated to the former Police, Fire, and Ambulance Station on West Bar in Sheffield. Through relentless efforts, the dilapidated building was restored, and in 1984, the South Yorkshire Fire Service Museum officially opened its doors.

From this moment the museum continued to evolve, gaining new artefacts and exhibits, including the refurbishment of former police cells in 1991, leading to its rebranding as the Fire & Police Museum. A significant milestone was reached in 2015 when the museum transitioned into a new charitable organisation, becoming the National Emergency Services Museum.

Exploring the Collections of the National Emergency Services Museum

Today, the museum uses lights, sounds, smoke, smells, and firsthand stories to bring history to life. Visitors can experience firsthand what it's like to stand next to a road traffic incident and witness how emergency services work together to rescue people. On the weekends it's even possible to take a ride in a real-life fire engine and live the dream of becoming a firefighter for the day with a Fire Engine Ride.

Of the 600,000 artefacts some include medical equipment and rescue gear, honouring the station's time as an ambulance hub. Beyond the fire engine, there are around 150 emergency service vehicles at the NESM, including horse-drawn fire pumps, lifeboats, and early motorised ambulances.

Sheffield's National Emergency Services Museum 1
- Bubblin40

But the NESM is not just for adults—it's a perfect day out for the whole family. This is evident by their recent winning of the national Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award. With three floors bursting with interactive exhibitions and activities, not to mention surprises at every turn, boredom simply isn't an option at the National Emergency Services Museum. And with the option of an annual pass, the adventure never has to end. Pay once and enjoy unlimited visits for an entire year, ensuring that every return trip is just as thrilling as the first.

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Sheffield Treasure Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of England.

National Emergency Services Museum Questions

Information

What you need to know

Name
National Emergency Services Museum
Address
The Old Fire Station 101-109 West Bar, Deepcar S3 8PT
Location
53.385529, -1.470990
Tips before you visit

You’ll notice roadworks and many other changes happening at the museum. This is due to a major regeneration project that will improve the area around the museum at West Bar, including improving access into the museum itself.

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