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history of sprinkler fire system

Who Invented the Sprinkler Fire System?

history of sprinkler fire system

Fire sprinkler systems were originally designed to protect commercial buildings, but they are now present in practically every structure. They’ve only recently begun to be placed in private residences. Though the technology itself hasn’t changed too much in the last 70 years, it is worth noting the development of a sprinkler fire system. From its conception in the 1800s, to the modern uses of today.


Find out more about the history of the sprinkler fire system from a professional fire sprinkler installation company. 

In 1812, the concept of fire sprinklers was invented. Firstly, a sprinkler fire system was installed in London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane by architect William Congreve. The system was made out of punctured pipes. This led to a large water container of 100 tonnes being released in the event of a fire. 


This contraption was fully reliant on an individual standing outside of the theatre to open the valve, however for the time, it added a level of fire safety that never existed before. Since candles were the only source of light, the dangers of a fire spreading were imminent; especially inside theatres like the Royal in London.  


Automatic Fire Sprinklers

Though it was a step in the right direction, one flaw with Congreve’s design was that the sprinkler fire system was not fully automated. As a result, inventors from 1860 onwards began to develop devices that could turn on their own.


Phillip W. Pratt, from Massachusetts, patented the first fire automatic sprinkler system in 1972. It was this design that became the foundations for the automatic sprinkler fire system that continued to advance and develop through history. 


Following on from Pratt was Henry S. Parmalee, who is seen by many as the true inventor of automatic fire sprinkler heads that we use today. Improving from Pratt’s patent, in 1874 Parmalee installed his automatic fire sprinklers in his own piano factory. These sprinkler heads were individually controlled and the heat from the fire would shatter a bulb within, releasing liquid.


Parmalee worked hard to educate businesses and the public about his device, but only ten factories were employing the ‘automatic fire extinguisher’ by 1883; nine years after it was initially invented.


The Grinnel System

Seemingly developing the sprinkler concept into what we know of it today, Frederick Grinnel was the owner of the firm that manufactured Parmelee’s system. In 1881, he chose to build and patent his own system, which became known as the ‘Grinnell System’ and became well-known for its usefulness.


For several years, Grinnell continued to improve his system in his attempt to perfect his design, eventually inventing the glass disc sprinkler in 1890, which is substantially the same as the ones used today. Sprinklers in France are even known as ‘Le Grinnell.’ For more information on the history of fire sprinkler systems, check out our page here


How Does a Sprinkler Fire System Work Today?

The design of fire sprinklers has remained basically unchanged since 1954, with a greater emphasis on increasing fire safety in general.


As a result, it’s safe to state that fire sprinkler systems are gaining in popularity. They began to be recognised as a successful means of fire suppression in everyday life. Automatic fire sprinklers are increasingly being used in newly constructed structures such as schools and warehouses. Sprinklers are currently not required in all buildings in the United Kingdom, however, this is beginning to change. These sprinkler fire systems are now mandatory in high-rise buildings over 30 metres in height.


The way fire sprinklers operate hasn’t altered much in the last 65 years; as a combination of Congreve’s ‘holes in pipe’ approach and Parmelee/Grinnell’s sprinkler-head technology continues.


RAD Fire Sprinklers

At RAD Fire Sprinklers, we promote and install automatic fire sprinklers throughout residential and commercial buildings in the UK. Fire sprinklers installation is the most effective fire safety plan and can be easily implemented in various types of buildings.  Find out more about how fire sprinklers are designed on our previous blog.

To find out more about our sprinkler fire system services, or to receive a quote, why not fill in our online form? A member of our team will shortly be in touch to see how we can help you. Or, give us a call on 01892 680 090 and speak to us today.

Mist system was a great solution for our renovation needs and them team at RAD have been great. Always communicated clearly and been on hand to discuss over the phone as needed. Would highly recommend!
09:32 17 Jul 22
I have used RAD for a couple of projects and found them to be good to deal with. They did a pair of 3 storey open plan houses and seven three and four story town houses. The sprinklers were to improve fire safety, allow more flexible space and comply with building regulations. The sprinklers were far more cost effective than the mist type systems and look very discrete when installed.
Paul Jeary
15:50 11 Jul 22
It has been a pleasure to deal with RAD for installation of fire sprinklers at our site is Sevenoaks. They were fast, professional, working to time and quote, which made it easy to work with them.
Katrina Horobin
12:03 29 Jun 22
My requirement was a bit unusual for RAD in that I wanted a mist system in one room of a rented house. I had no drawings or technical back up. RAD were very helpful and repositioned the unit after the initial installation. Luckily with the help of Sonny, the engineer it all worked out very well.
Simon Gurney
16:16 12 May 22
I have used RAD for the last 10 years for all of my housing developments in need of a sprinkler system. Easy process from start to finish and no issues or problems throughout. Always someone at hand to answer a querie and we have a great working relationship with the team at RAD. Would highly recommend.
15:33 12 May 22
Diligent & a very professional team. A joy to deal with. Will certainly be calling on them to help with many more future schemes.
Jason Tema
22:17 08 Jul 19
Great team, fitting sprinklers, saving lives & property... What more could you wish for!!!
Colin P
17:53 01 Jul 17
Excellent company & great service... This company rocks! They sprinkle fires & save lives!!!
Music N Videoz
07:15 16 Dec 16
As somebody who feels that it should be a necessity for all properties to have fire sprinkler systems, I am a big fan of this company. I have used them numerous times to service my home system and they are very knowledgeable. I would highly recommend their service.
Kate Fraser
09:25 30 Mar 15
One look at Rad Fire Sprinkler's website will tell you that these guys know exactly what they are talking about when it comes to Fire Sprinklers and the legislation surrounding fire safety. A very trustworthy company.
Adam Hudson
16:45 15 Nov 13

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RAD Fire Sprinklers Ltd.
58A St John’s Road
Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9NY

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Tel: 01892 680 090

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