When the Bergen Fire Brigade was founded in 1868, Corps de Garde was an obvious choice as one of two primary locations for fire stations. Corps de Garde, however, has a history that goes some years further back.
Corps de Garde, which is a French expression for a corps of watchmen, was built in 1794. Prior to this the place had been called Klokkerhaugen - Bell Hill, which referred to a small house with a bell which was used to summon a group of the town’s guards. The guards were often called “walk-arounds”, and these superior watchmen had special duties which included walking a regular round every morning and every evening to make sure nothing was on fire. They should also take action against all kinds of noise in the streets. Their duties even included surveillance of the regular watchmen in town, who often were prone to sleeping rather than keeping their posts. The “walk-arounds” had a town officer as their leader. Corps de Garde was built to provide the “walk-around” watchmen with a guardhouse.
In the second half of the 17th century, Bergen was described by Edvard Edvardsen. According to him there used to be “a small hill, on which there was a garden, on which there was a small bell. A watchman rang the bell in the morning, when it was winter, at five o'clock, and when it was summer, at four o'clock. In the evening, the watchman rang the bell in the winter at seven, and in the summer at eight o'clock, and otherwise it rang for assembly of court or for town assembly. But in 1650, Nykirken parish built, at its own cost, a wonderful tower in stone with five spears, which increased the town's beauty, and was remarkable for those who arrived either from the south or from the north to the town. Regretfully there was a fire in 1660 which damaged the tower badly, and later the walls were taken down to be used as building stones for Fredriksberg fortress.”
The first professional fire brigade in Bergen made Corps de Garde their fire station in 1886. It was, however, not considered the best of places to keep watch for fires – the tower had not yet been built. At the time watch was kept a few yards up the street in Fredriksberg fortress.
Corps de Garde was still a good location for the firemen, being close to many areas of town that were vulnerable to fire, and with the added advantage of being on top of a hill. Most firemen who have to pull a fire wagon to the site of the fire, prefer to pull downhill towards the site.
Some years later a telegraphic connection was established between Fredriksberg fortress, Corps de Garde and the main fire station in the town centre. Until these telegraph lines were stretched, runners brought messages about fires.
The house was rebuilt with an added fire tower in 1886. But already in 1904 Corps de Garde was made redundant by the fire department. It was used by the committee for the poor, which established a nursery for babies in the old Bell Hill. From 1926 the building has been used as a residence for the priest in Nykirken parish.