A 13-year wish to bring Barnstaple’s historic steam fire engine back to the town has been granted thanks to a generous local benefactor.

Barnstaple's old steam fire engine pictured in Castle Street. Picture: North Devon AthenaeumBarnstaple's old steam fire engine pictured in Castle Street. Picture: North Devon Athenaeum

Keith Abraham has bought the 1892 Shand Mason Borough Fire Engine for the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon as his lasting gift for the town.

Hopes were dashed in 2006 when, following a public appeal to raise £30,000 to buy the engine, the entire British Engineerium collection in Hove to which it belonged was sold to a Brighton businessman.

But he was jailed for nine months manslaughter in 2017 and last year the building and its contents were put up for sale.

Barnstaple museum manager Alison Mills said: “Keith Abraham made sure we didn’t give up on the engine and together with the late David Butt was determined not to give up.

The Barnstapel steam fire engine pictured at the Cattle Market. Picture: North Devon Athenaeum.The Barnstapel steam fire engine pictured at the Cattle Market. Picture: North Devon Athenaeum.

“Now his persistence has paid off and he has been able to give his adopted town a lasting gift that will be a great attraction at the reopened museum.

“This donation reinforces Keith’s position as the town’s greatest benefactor since William Frederick Rock, who gave the North Devon Athenaeum and Rock Park to Barnstaple.”

The new engine is now worth more than £60,000 and is expected to take pride of place in the museum’s new £2million extension, which is currently under construction.

It was purchased for the museum via the Museum Development Trust thanks to Keith’s donation and held as a heritage asset in perpetuity.

Keith Abraham with the Shand Mason Barnstaple steam fire engine that he has purchased for his home town. Picture: MBNDKeith Abraham with the Shand Mason Barnstaple steam fire engine that he has purchased for his home town. Picture: MBND

The town had first considered buying the fire appliance in 1998 as a millennium project, but at the time the vendor wanted more than £42,000 for it.

The minutes of a 1914 Barnstaple Borough Council meeting contain information about the engine.

An entry records a resolution by the council to ‘purchase a new steam fire engine’.

It includes a tender from Messrs Shand, Mason and Co of £320 for ‘supplying a steam fire engine with 22 feet of suction hose’.

The original £30,000 appeal was secured with £15,000 in grant funding plus another £15,000 raised by local people.

The new museum Long Bridge Wing is scheduled to open this summer and will include a new gallery, shop, education space and café, and will increase the museum footprint by 70 per cent.

Keith Abraham laid the first brick for the new wing back in November.