The Watford Observer is delighted to team up with Three Rivers Museum for a series that will remind readers of some of the people who, often now forgotten, made an impact on how their neighbours lived and worked. We continue with a Rickmansworth doctor, magistrate – and fire fighter.

Roderick Henderson, born in London in 1841, studied medicine at Guys Hospital from 1860. He married Maria in 1866, and they moved to Rickmansworth in 1869 to take up the medical practice in the town.

Watford Observer:

Dr Roderick Henderson in the Watford Observer on May 21, 1891

Dr Henderson is remembered particularly for modernising the parish fire brigade. A volunteer firefighter as a medical student, he saw almost on his arrival in the town a High Street fire attended by the old parish fire engine with onlookers helping as best they could. The effect was limited, and Henderson suggested a properly trained body of men who knew their equipment and how to maintain it. So a volunteer Fire Brigade, paid for by public subscription, was formed, with Henderson invited to train it, although the first ‘Captain’ was Herbert Fellows, of Salters Brewery. The old fire engine was re-housed in a new building opposite the church. Henderson, now Captain, was responsible for the provision of a new fire station and engine in September 1891, and he continued to lead, and support financially, the fire brigade until it was taken over by the UDC in 1925.

Watford Observer:

The Rickmansworth Fire Brigade on the old parish fire engine, 1877. Dr Henderson is in the left foreground

But he did much more. A magistrate for more than 20 years, he was President of the cricket club, a major shareholder and last Chairman of the Town Hall Company, and as Churchwarden of St Mary’s, took an active part in its rebuilding. He oversaw the health of the boys and girls of the National Schools, and was also the medical officer for the Watford Union Workhouse. His funeral procession in 1929 was headed by the new fire engine. He had been central to much of the life of the town for 60 years.

Three Rivers Museum has been closed for the winter during a significant refurbishment. It has now re-opened – details are on their website