The annual Guy Fawkes Bridgwater Somerset carnival can be traced back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators failed in their attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. King James 1st and his parliament declared that the events of November 5th should be celebrated annually with the lighting of bonfires.
It is believed that because Bridgwater was such a protestant area of the country at the time, the people of the town celebrated the annual anniversary with great enthusiasm.
The celebrations have now grown into the magnificent spectacle which takes to the streets of Bridgwater each year in early November.
Early carnival celebrations involved bonfires and people making homemade gunpowder to manufacture Squibs. A Squib is a unique firework that are still part of the carnival tradition.
The carnival developed over years and the current format of the Carnival can be traced back to the Victorians in 1847. Townsfolk would parade to a bonfire, disguising their identities in costumes and masks. An effigy of Guy Fawkes, the Pope, and any others who had upset the locals was added to the flames of the bonfire. Hundreds of homemade Squibs would be lit in the town centre and a night of celebration went on until the early hours.
The early events were quite a raucous affair, and after a riot broke out in 1880 a committee was formed to create and manage the Carnival procession as we know it now. Brigwater is known as the Home of the Carnival.
The Guy Fawkes Bridgwater Somerset Carnival of today now involves hundreds of homemade ‘Carts’. Carnival floats in Bridgwater were originally hay carts or log carts. They are still called carts to this day although they now are large trailers of up to 100 feet long, with dancers and up to 22,000 lightbulbs lighting them up.
What is Squibbing?
After the procession, the lighting of the Squibs happens on Bridgwater High Street. The squibs were originally homemade with gunpowder but in 1929 they started to be manufactured by a specialist firework manufacturer. Around 150 ‘squibbers’ hold poles above their heads with squibs on them and they are ignited at the same time to create quite the display.
The Bridgwater route is 2.5 miles long over 2 to 3 hours and attracts around 150,000 people every year.
Besides being fantastic entertainment for the town, the purpose of the Carnival is to raise money for local charities. Spectators are encouraged to donate £1 or more to the passing collection carts.
For more information and timings visit the Guy Fawkes Bridgwater Somerset Carnival website www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk If you can’t make it to Bridgwater, the carnival series travels from town to town with the final taking place in Glastonbury on the 18th November.
The Series tours around Somerset through the Autumn months, for dates and times, visit the Somerset Carnival Website
Need Holiday Accommodation when visiting Somerset? We have cottages to rent here in Glastonbury. www.themiddlewick.co.uk
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