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Philip Marriage’s Firework Labels

November 3, 2021
by the gentle author

Philip Marriage sent me this glorious collection of firework labels. He said, “If these look as if they’ve been buried or blown up and burnt, it’s because they have!”

“This box of Brock’s bangers was a left-over from my teenage years, preserved in a tin box in the garage for past sixty years. These firework labels give a snapshot of a time when the cry of ‘A penny for the Guy’ was any child’s means to purchase a packet of tuppenny bangers.

I kept them because they possess the unsophistication of another era, bought not only for their visual appeal but primarily for the power of their explosive content.

Brock’s Fireworks go back a long way, founded in 1698 and manufacturing in Islington before moving to Whitechapel in 1815 where their factory blew up in an accident. They moved to Hemel Hempstead in 1910 just down the road from Redbourn in Hertfordshire, where I lived for a decade after I was married in 1968.”

Philip Marriage

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. November 3, 2021

    I love the title “Standard Mine of Serpents”. Is there an un-standard be sort as well?

  2. November 3, 2021

    Unbelievable what the advertising designers have come up with to get these firecrackers to the customer. I wonder if the effect was always as promised by the colorful images?

    Love & Peace

  3. Sally Bernard permalink
    November 3, 2021

    Fascinating! Brought back many memories of childhood.Thanks.

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    November 3, 2021

    Yes – these bring back memories of childhood when Bonfire Night was a big event (and always held on the right date too!) and before the days of health and safety when everyone had their own firework display.

    We held a party once where everyone had to bring five shillings worth of fireworks (how old am I??) and one family brought one single mega 5/- rocket which we all thought was very extravagant!

    And on a other occasion at a friends house the entire box of fireworks caught alight and went careering around the garden (the ‘display’ was all over in a couple of minutes!)

    And while the local authority mega displays and particularly the fireworks on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show are very spectacular they somehow don’t have the magic and excitement of actually watching your father lighting the touch paper… and…. whooooosh!!

  5. Lesley permalink
    November 3, 2021

    This takes me back to my granddad who would carefully keep the fireworks in a biscuit tin and take them out one at a time to let them off in his garden while I watched.
    I loved the Rockets and Catherine Wheels but didn’t like the Jumping Jacks.
    I was allowed to hold a Sparkler and would write my name in the air with it.
    The next morning seemed to always be filled with the smell of smoke and ‘dead’ Rockets littered the street.
    Happy times.

  6. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    November 3, 2021

    I didn’t appreciate the artistic appeal of the labels when I was a child—we were just interested in the result!

    In America, of course, fireworks were for the 4th of July, and every year we would beg my Dad for them. And every year he would say, ‘What if I just light a $20 bill on fire and you can watch that burn?’ (But he always bought them for us.)

  7. Roger Tiller permalink
    November 3, 2021

    WOW what memories, I’m 80 and I can remember these fireworks so we’ll I used to go around with a old pram and put my guy outside stations shops pubs and get my money for the fireworks…. I used to get about a £1.00 for the day and go straight into the newsagents across the road where I used to live in Merton Morden Surrey, I spent most of the money on the Brocks thunder flash bangers and did they go.
    On the actual night the 5th all my family used to go round the back of my flats and have a very big bonfire and my father used to be in charge we had so many fireworks next morning I see how many paper pieces of wrapping I could find and the smell around was beautiful, I feel quite emotional about it another part of my young life gone forever.

  8. Pauline Taylor permalink
    November 3, 2021

    Happy memories of Bonfire Night. Robin (my friend) and I always shared our fireworks and he set them out in order in his father’s workshop and his father was required to set them off in that order. We used to invite a few other friends and his mother used to have a lovely feast prepared for us in the kitchen, I remember the occasion when I sat on their cat !! And another occasion when one friend set fire to the inside of his raincoat and he was then too scared to go home !!

    As someone has said Bonfire night was always on November 5th and we always had a big bonfire with Guy Fawkes on the top. There was I remember one exception when it was a day late as I had come home after having my tonsils out on November 5th and an evening outside was banned. I can still remember how disappointed I was.

  9. November 3, 2021

    What? No Catherine Wheeels?

  10. Ann V permalink
    November 3, 2021

    I particularly remember the Roman Candles, Jumping Jacks, Sparklers, and the Catherine Wheels that Dad used to pin to the fence. Sometimes the Catherine Wheels would spin, sometimes they wouldn’t. When our Guy was finished, Dad used to put it in the shed covered with a sheet until Bonfire Night. I remember the lovely smell the next morning, and we would look to see if any sticks from the Rockets had come down in the garden. Happy Days!

  11. Darran permalink
    November 3, 2021

    What an interesting article. Well done.
    Brought back memories i had quite forgotten.

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