Remember, remember: illegal manufacture of fireworks in Birmingham, November 1866

This item is from Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, dated Saturday 10th November, 1866. Copies of Aris’s can be viewed on microfilm in the local studies area at the Library of Birmingham.

There is quite a moralistic tone running through this item, particularly at the end where celebrations in the ‘second and third-rate’ areas of the town are reported. The reporter certainly misjudged the continued popularity of Guy Fawkes night. Have a safe bonfire night – and don’t try any of this at  home!

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The Fifth of November

The celebration of Guy Fawkes day on the 5th of November, although shorn of its former prestige by the fact that the special service appointed for the occasion to be read in churches has been abrogated, still continues to be celebrated by the juvenile portion of the population. Of late years certain restrictions have been placed upon the sale of fireworks, and the making of such dangerous missiles has been removed from the town to places where an accidental explosion could do no damage except to the artisans employed. There are, however, persons to be found who are not only willing to risk their own lives, but the lives of their neighbours by carrying on the dangerous process, and with the view to discover such delinquents, Sanitary-inspector Woolley and his assistants have been actively employed during the past week, and have succeeded in discovering several persons who have been guilty of infringement of the laws. 

During the past week, Inspector Woolley discovered a large quantity of materials and fireworks in process of manufacture at the premises of Mr. J. Wilder at Duddeston. The whole of the articles were seized. At about five o’clock on Saturday evening, Assistant Inspectors Harris and Wagstaff visited the premises of Mr. Henry Gooch in Steelhouse Lane, where they found the process of manufacture being carried on, and a large quantity of materials and articles in process of manufacture was seized. On Monday Mr. Woolley and officers went to the premises of Mr. Joseph Wilkes in Weaman Street, where they found Mrs Wilkes engaged in filling a quantity of cases, Mrs Wilkes and a girl being engaged in finishing the fireworks. There was also found a quantity of gunpowder, sulphur, charcoal and other materials, all of which were seized by the officers. These persons will be called upon to answer for their conduct in front of the magistrates in due course. 

Last night a large number of courts in the second and third-rate streets of the town were illuminated with bonfires, and a fair amount of money was wasted in the useless discharge of gunpowder. The march of education has shown its influence in the more orderly manner in which the proceedings of the celebration are conducted; but although the special service for the 5th of November in connection with Guy Fawkes has been discontinued, still the recollection that 5th November is the anniversary of the Battle of Inkermann will cause the expiring celebration of Guy Fawkes day to be celebrated for some time to come. 

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