10 things you need to know about… Fireworks

PUBLISHED: 09:53 01 November 2013 | UPDATED: 09:54 01 November 2013

Families enjoy the funfair and fireworks at Barnham Cross Common in Thetford. Photograph Simon Parker

Families enjoy the funfair and fireworks at Barnham Cross Common in Thetford. Photograph Simon Parker


The first fireworks were probably made in China around 2,000 years ago. One story says that a cook invented them by accident when he happened to mix potassium nitrate with charcoal and sulphur – one can only imagine what a delicious meal he was in the middle of preparing!

Initially, fireworks were popular because of the loud sound they made and the fear they produced. Ironically, it is a love of this very same phenomenon that last year resulted in dozens of Asbos being handed out to teenage firework fans.

The word for firework in Japanese – hanabi – means “fire flower”.

The first recorded fireworks in England were at the wedding of King Henry VII in 1486 – whether they continued in the royal bedchamber on Henry’s wedding night is a matter that he took to his grave.

The oldest and most-respected firework firm in Britain was latterly based in Swaffham, Norfolk. Brock’s began life in the early 1700s and went on to provide the spectacular displays at the glittering Crystal Palace, but fizzled out in 1988 when the company was bought out by Standard Fireworks.

Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch, although your children are unlikely to run while holding a blowtorch or attempt to pick one up by the hot end... something to remember this November 5.

Blue fireworks are rarely used in large quantities because they cost so much to produce. Their colour comes from copper, which is expensive, while cheaper fireworks are coloured by easier-to-source elements such as calcium (orange), sodium (yellow), aluminium (white) and iron (gold).

Peony, chrysanthemum, dahlia, willow, palm, ring, spider, horsetail and rain are all technical terms for the effects certain fireworks create in the sky. “Oooh!” and “Aaah!” are the technical terms used by onlookers to describe every single one of them.

Fireworks factory employees who work in the shell-manufacturing areas of plants are banned from wearing shell suits in case their synthetic clothing produces sparks that lead to the entire operation going up in smoke (and showers of glitter).

Never be seduced by your love of fireworks to buy the indoor variety. Unless you are the type who is likely to be entranced by the pyrotechnic equivalent of watching a dog foul a public highway, you’re bound to be disappointed.

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