Bonfire Night

Photo:Penny for the Guy

Penny for the Guy

Keith Thomas

Penny for the Guy!

Listen to Sylvia Barnard (née Cole)

... bonfires that you couldn't believe the size of!

There weren't many fireworks around and certainly no large, organised displays, but Bonfire Night was an important day for the estate's children.

This page was added by Cheryl Bailey on 06/06/2010.
Comments about this page

I would dispute the comment that there weren't many fireworks around. I'm talking about the mid 50's onwards. We didn't have organised displays, but all the newsagents sold fireworks which were housed in glass cases at child level so it was easy to choose what you wanted. As it grew dusk, the pops and bangs would begin; tea was eaten quickly and in a state of excitement at the thought of the evening to come. The noise of all the fireworks rose to a sustained crescendo as the evening progressed. It was my brother's favourite night of the year (he's now 71, and it still is). He would have accumulated a good stock of fireworks well before the 5th of November (in those days, children could buy fireworks) including many penny bangers which he would stuff into his pockets before venturing out to drop them down drains, causing enormous bangs. Every year the local kids would build an enormous bonfire on Selby Green, and we were free to roam the streets as we pleased. When I did go back home, I can remember stepping into the living room and being aware that the air was hazy and blue - the result of all the smoke and fumes outside. Happy Days!

By Christine Gawthorpe nee Watts
On 17/06/2012

I lived in Peterborough Road during the 40's and 50's and well recall helping to build the Selby Green fire. For the first two years after the war an effigy of Hitler was hung on a lamppost before ending up on that fire, and I agree that there were plenty of fireworks going off. The Barbour fire on Mill Green was the biggest being built of cable drums, pallets. rubber tyres and old wood, plus a piano or two and huge branches and tree trunks. The fireworks here were big having been supplied by local traders although families could let their's off as well. No Health and Safety, just a lot of fun.

By Ron Harris
On 11/03/2013

I thought that I would add a few words about fireworks and Bonfire Night because I made fireworks, rigged displays and have a massive collection of pyro memorabillia. The first fireworks I saw other than the flares that Pains of Mitcham tested during the war were those let off on the night if VE Day. I was three and a half and Mum took me out to watch all the stuff going on at Selby Green and in all the streets around. A bunch of the local men had gone down to Pains and on behalf of their neighbours who all chipped in, bought up some of the stock that had been in store since the outbreak of war. I was transported to a new heaven that night as rockets tore into the sky and roman candles flicked up coloured balls while bangers and jumping jacks exploded at our feet. One man had a bouquet of roman candles and let them off from his front gate in Salisbury Road. He gave me the case when it went out and I still have it now. I used to collect the fired cases as the years passed and had my favourites even then. Brocks Boy Scout Rouser and Wild West Shooter, Pains Mount Pele and Hydra Headed Comet and Standard 6d white rocket with a point and coloured stars. Later the was a Wessex Sarum Scarum, a Mount Everest Climber Rocket and the unaffordable 5/- Sonic Fireball. Most of the neighbours took the chance to burn rubbish on November the Fifth and many let off a few fireworks while they were at it to please their kids but if you were canny you would time your fire so that you got to Barbours on Mill Green or to that on Selby Green or all the other greens where the locals had built a communal bonfires. Great fun and it went on for years with us letting off Wilders Pixie Cones, Wells Gyro, Pains London Rousers and all the other fireworks that could be bought in local shops. At the Barbour fire, they let off 2lb Rockets with names Like Wheatsheaf, Singing Rain or Bouquet of Poppies that cost 10 or 15 shilling each and even went up to twenty five bob. These were well out of the pocket of people on our estate but Barbour collected money from his customers and suppliers all year to give us this treat. Sad to say that by the time of the sixties, the communal fires were being banned and Barbours was a thing of the past but I tell you one thing, ask anyone over the age of seventy if they enjoyed The Fifth in their day and I am sure you will get a positive response. I am luckier than most for if I want to recall those days all I have to do is look at my collection, for most of the fireworks that we let off or saw, sit there waiting for me to handle them. No worries, they are all dummies. Have a good Fifth folks, its almost here.

By Ron Harris
On 27/09/2013

I also lived in Peterborough Rd but our night was spent down at The Goat where a local bus owner used to hold a big fire.I lived at 299 and attended Welbeck Rd. Masters to name Matthews Price Cook and others.

By P.Rowling
On 27/09/2013

Sorry but cant stop adding my bit! BONFIRE NIGHT  wow what a time this was for us.we would make a GUY pad it out with paper or old clothes by a mask ,one of nans old hats a pair of old wellies if we were lucky, put it on our soap cart ( with old pram wheels ) we would go outside GAUMONT penny for the guying! People were kind and gave with good spirit! we then brought some Bangers .The bonfires everywhere were enormous to get them so big we used to knock on doors and ask if they had any rubbish to get rid of and it was pushed and shoved to the SITE  by loads of kids and it burnt for days ! didnt need rubbish tips then!, There was one time when the council said NO MORE BONFIRES ALLOWED !, but we were not going to give in we will not surrender!,, pure churchill spirit !!! It became a full blown battle as fast as we built them the enemy would sneak in mainly when we were at school with their flat backs and take all our fodder!!! when we did see them they were called some real blue  words ( not for the readers ears) but sadly we lost in the end!! Good times  though.Yes I do recall pains fireworks you could buy them in the local shops. 

By Roy Marsh
On 27/01/2015

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