Category Archives: History of Fireworks

THE HORRIBLE HISTORY OF FIREWORKS

Children’s TV has always been entertaining, as it doesn’t depend on sex and violence, and the Horrible Histories Series is no exception.

Fireworks have been used around the World for centuries, bringing joy and adding to celebrations for millions but some of them have their history steeped in horrific circumstances.

CATHERINE WHEEL
In the 4th Century, Catherine of Alexandria was a high-born princess and the daughter of a pagan king and queen who converted to Christianity as a very young woman and spent her life finding out as much as possible about her faith as she could which she then passed onto others. She was unafraid to challenge those in power and when she invited Emperor Maxentius to hear about the Christian faith, which was in direct contradiction of his own pagan beliefs. Indeed the Emperor brought together a group of scholars and philosophers to challenge her point of view and basically call her out for her stupidity. However, they were so captivated by the erudite and intelligent Catherine that in fact contrary to changing her mind, they all decided that the Christian Faith was indeed good and they and the wife of Maxentius converted to the new religion. Maxentius was naturally angry about this and in an attempt to dissuade her from her faith, even offered to marry her – she declined, advising that she was wholly devoted to Christ.

Maxentius was incensed and ordered that the scholars be put to death and Catherine in turn was captured, beaten and imprisoned and once he was aware that she had no intention of reverting back to paganism, he ordered her death on the spiked breaking wheel, quite the most horrid of torture devices. However, once again, things didn’t quite go to plan as the wheel fell apart, allegedly ‘aided by angels’. She didn’t however escape death as he had her beheaded but she went on to be canonized in the 4th century AD and is today considered to be one of the most important female saints in the Christian faith.

ROMAN CANDLE
Most Roman Emperors were at best unstable and at worst, positively psychotic but none more so that the lunatic, Emperor Nero.

Nero really despised Christians and Christianity and as the person in charge of the Roman legal system, he pretty much had carte blanche on what laws he could readily impose. The religion at the time basically implied that the Emperor was God whereas Christianity had really taken hold of the hearts and faith of the people of Rome following the death of Jesus at the hands of Pontius Pilate, under the instruction of Emperor Tiberius in the first century AD. Christianity, unlike that which was available to only the hoi polio was a religion for all including rich and poor alike and cared not for wealth and riches which Nero was not about to accept lying down.

Nero, cruel man that he was, used to torture Christians for entertainment, dousing them in tar and sticking a makeshift wick on their heads before lighting them on fire. He was known to laugh at the screams he could hear whilst the slaves died in excruciating pain. Another beautiful piece of pyro with a horrible history.

ROCKETS
The pyrotechnic rocket was developed in the 2nd century BC and were the oldest form of pyrotechnic article used. Initially, they were only used in religious celebrations but went onto become ‘flaming arrows’ which Mongols and Arabs brought to the west in the form of gunpowder. In fact, the Congreve rocket, a British Military weapon was created from the earliest Mysorean rocket, an Indian iron creation which was used in the East India conflict.

Rockets even feature as a weapon as outlined in the words of the American National Anthem where they were used to great effect, killing huge numbers of soldiers.

So, there you have it, the macabre history of fireworks in a nutshell.

Share

Old Skool Fireworks

Being ideally positioned just off the M1, in the middle of the UK makes our showroom the ideal spot to meet up. It is no surprise therefore that avid firework collectors come over to see us regularly. They meet up to exchange goods, chat about recent ‘acquisitions’ and of course to establish what else they are looking to find and add to their collections.

Fireworks have been around in the UK for literally hundreds of years but they were widely popularised in the mid 18th century as a result of a London-based company, Brocks Fireworks, the company responsible for an annual fireworks display from 1865-1936 covering a period of more than 70 years. The company was so popular in years gone by that they even appeared on a Pathe Newsreel detailing how they made lancework and Catherine wheels.

Collectors of history and ephemera spend an absolute fortune on their collections and are pretty much aware of what other avid collectors of pyro paraphernalia have in their collection and are in the process of adding.

One such collector is Maurice Evans, a man who is well into his eighties now and yet his fascination with fireworks shows no sign of dwindling – i reckon (just like myself) he used to be the one with his face stuck to the window of the local fireworks retailer on the run up to Bonfire Night.

Today, he has some real treasures, all fine examples of fireworks from years gone by. He is proudest of his exploding ‘firework fruits’ with a price tag of 2s and 6d (30p to those among us who can vaguely remember buying a Mars bar on changeover day and was gutted that it cost all of my shiny 2p coin) and more worryingly some WWII shells and mortars.

He said during a recent interview for a magazine article confirmed that the majority of the fireworks are either dummies or have had their gunpowder removed. However, it wouldn’t be possible to do this with Catherine wheels and bangers without damaging them. I would add that this is an accepted practice amongst firework collectors.

Collectors, whether the passion be for stamps, coins or fireworks as in this instance are a new breed altogether. Fireworks are brightly coloured, with a unique smell and are very tactile which of course adds to the fascination.

If you do have some fireworks hidden away that you would like to share pictures of, if you could let us have a few shots we will put them onto our Facebook and web pages.

Share