• Queenie Waterman

The History of Firework Displays

When you think of firework displays, you think of pretty colours, happy times and celebration – Bonfire night in the UK, Independence Day in the US etc. But fireworks did not originate in either of these countries – it’s a well-known fact that the first fireworks came from China, with the earliest instances of proper fireworks dating back to the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). During this time firework displays were used for many festivities and celebrations, and the Chinese people of this era believed that fireworks could bring luck, happiness and get rid of evil spirits!

Marco Polo was responsible for bringing fireworks to Europe from Asia in 1295 (although gunpowder weaponry had been used during the Crusades a few years before this), and from there the technology was further developed into more powerful weapons such as cannons and muskets. During this era, fireworks were still used in celebrations and a number of rulers used firework displays to entertain their guests. In 1486 the first royal firework display took place, at the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (an event which ended the War of the Roses) and throughout the reign of the Tudors fireworks remained very popular indeed. King Henry VIII continued the tradition of celebrating with fireworks, and his daughter Elizabeth I was known to be fascinated with fireworks – enjoying them so much during her reign she created the job of “Fire Master of England”. The best and most well-respected firework maker in England was blessed with this title, which in turn encouraged others to progress the art of firework creation to attempt to gain this title for themselves!

Later, King James II was so impressed with the firework display at his coronation that he knighted his Fire Master.

Of course, gunpowder wasn’t always used for celebrations back in those days – we doubt there’s a single person in the United Kingdom who hasn’t heard of Guy Fawkes, a key conspirator in The Gunpowder Plot – an attempt to overthrow King James I’s government. Guy Fawkes was not the leader of this scheme, but he was the unfortunate soul who was found in the vaults below Parliament. The Diary of Samuel Pepys notes that fireworks were used to mark Guy Fawkes night soon after.

Nowadays we associate fireworks with an assortment of beautiful colours but it wasn’t until much later that fireworks took on these vibrant hues – in the early 1800’s Italian inventors added in the metals that cause the reactions that create the colours we now see today. Before that, all fireworks were orange! (Fun Fact: The hardest colour to create in a firework is blue, because the compounds used to create the blue are fairly unstable and burn up very quickly!).

As you can see, firework displays have a long and colourful (excuse the pun) history and a lot of nations have contributed to developing them into the beautiful displays we see today. These days you can see fireworks at events all year round, not just November 5th or New Years Eve and in recent years wedding firework displays have become increasingly popular with bride and grooms to be!

We know that fireworks are not for everyone, but the joy they can bring to so many people is why we do what we do – seeing spectators faces light up is the most rewarding feeling and we hope that we can continue providing high quality, professional firework displays to you all for many years to come!

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