The "human fireworks", wearing their heavy asbestos suits studded with squibs, they are being prepared for rehearsal for the White City's Firework Show. The fireworks are touched off at the beginning of the show as the men stage a fight. 31 August 1937. TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

By Mark McConville

 

AS BRITAIN prepares for numerous firework displays to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, stunning pictures have revealed firework preparations in the 1930s.

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Men in asbestos suits take parts in wrestling display. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The incredible images, as revealed by website Retronaut, show preparation at the Crystal Palace for a fireworks display in 1933 as workers prepare one of the set pieces and men in asbestos suits take part in wrestling displays.

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Preparing one of the set pieces etc. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Other striking shots show workers from Brock’s Firework Factory holding giant fireworks in 1930 and the ‘human fireworks’ wearing their heavy asbestos suits studded with squibs as they rehearse for the White City’s Firework Show in 1937 where the fireworks were touched off at the beginning of the show as the men staged a fight.

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Preparing the trench mortars. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

The origins of fireworks can be traced back to 7th century China. China is where gunpowder was first used, and at this time, pyrotechnics experts were as valuable to Chinese rulers as the best war generals.

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Preparing one of the set pieces. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Gunpowder didn’t make its way to England until the 13th century. It is thought that Roger Bacon, a monk, was the first person in the UK to use gunpowder, as there have been discoveries of various documents where he charts his experiments, including one from 1242 where he writes that, “…you will get thunder and lightning if you know the trick.”

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Men in asbestos suits take parts in wrestling display. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

Although fireworks were probably used in the UK from the late 13th century onwards, they didn’t begin to become truly popular until at least 200 years later. Indeed, the first documented use of fireworks in the UK is the wedding of King Henry VII, which was in 1486.

 

It wasn’t until the reign of Elizabeth I, however, that they’d become popular across the country. In fact, the Queen herself was such a huge lover of fireworks that she appointed a ‘Fire Master’ to oversee royal displays.

Preparations at the Crystal Palace for the fireworks display. Preparing one of the set pieces. 10 August 1933.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

Of course, the most common association many in the UK make with fireworks is to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

 

In the UK, ‘Guy Fawkes Night,’ or ‘Bonfire Night,’ is marked on November 5th every year, to mark the arrest of Guy Fawkes and the failure of the Gunpowder Plot. Although fireworks didn’t become part of the festivities until the 1650s, the date was celebrated with bonfires after Londoners were invited to light them in 1605 as a means of celebrating the failure of the Plot.

Workers From Brock’s Firework Factory Holding Giant Fireworks. – OCCUPATIONS – London, Cheam, – 1930.
TopFoto / Retronaut / mediadrumimages.com

 

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