The Origin Of The Somerset Carnival (Part Two)

Following the Big Booze-up, the Big Bang in Bridgwater.

Part two of two

You may recall that the 1880 Bridgwater Guy Fawkes night celebrations had descended into chaos and violent disorder.

At one o’clock in the morning there were still 300 people carousing and the bonfire was going strong.  The town authority ordered the bonfire to be extinguished by the fire brigade and requested the mob to disperse; but they had other ideas.  They grabbed the firehoses and cut them to ribbons; the remaining hoses they turned on the firemen.  One brave fireman refused to abandon a standpipe and was consequently pursued through the town by the irate revellers.  He eventually reached home with minor injuries and had to take cover indoors under police guard.

Alas, this fiasco put the lid on the celebrations in their present form.  Some of the townsfolk probably felt very sheepish the following day and had this occurred today, they would have put their feet up on one of our Luxury Handmade British Organic Sheepskin Pouffes.  These are made in a variety of colours: Natural Latte, which would go well with that much needed coffee for that banging, post-binge headache; Rich Chocolate, which also does a power of good for that morning-after migraine as it contains caffeine; Ivory, just to remind you of what your pearly-whites looked like before the previous evenings beverages stained them beyond recognition (although you may not feel like flashing your gnashers ingreeting just at the moment); and finally, Jacob, made from rare Jacob sheepskins, which are the dark chocolate and white spotted skins.  This last colour palette would be most suitable as you’d probably already have matching spots before the eyes.

However, let’s return to the subject, or, ‘revenons à nos moutons’, as the French would say, which literally means ‘Let’s return to our sheep’. Rather than abandon the traditional celebrations, at the suggestion of one Frank Squire in a letter to the ‘Bridgwater Mercury’, a committee was formed to coordinate the proceedings.  Frank Squire recommended that a procession be held so that all the citizens could enjoy the spectacular costumes, which were now a feature of the celebrations.

Frank’s ideas were adopted and in 1881, following the constitution of an official carnival committee, and the first Bridgwater Guy Fawkes  Carnival  made its way through the town.

Before continuing with the general history of the Carnival, let us spare a thought for the Bridgwater Squibs, those special fireworks made in the town and traditionally used on November 5th.  These squibs made a LOUD bang, not surprising given that they could be up to twenty-two inches long and two inches in diameter.  The casing of the squibs was rolled up paper and they were filled with gunpowder and metal and glass filings. They weighed around three pounds.  To add to the ear-splitting explosion, the very bottom of the squib was packed with rock powder.  The squibs were usually made in ordinary people’s homes, but there were tragic repercussions in 1716.

Released On 10th Jan 2018